Friday, February 13, 2009
Heart Health: Does Gender Matter?
Certain risk factors pose more of a heart-disease threat for women than they do for men due to biological differences and hormonal changes throughout women’s lives—a fact that many women, even doctors, aren’t always aware of. “Current research hasn’t adequately included women and taken into account these differences—including that we often have different heart attack symptoms than men,” says Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, director of the Society for Women’s Health Research. Because of this, women aren’t being treated as aggressively for heart disease or advised as strongly on how to avoid the risks. That’s why the SWHR is launching the Network on Sex Differences in Cardiovascular Disease to spur doctors and scientists to look at these differences in their research. What experts do know is that the following risk factors are a bigger threat to women’s hearts than to men’s. Mention them to your doctor, who may want to monitor you more closely if any apply to you. Diabetes It triples a man’s risk of heart disease—but increases a woman’s risk fivefold. Diabetes causes inflammation in the arteries, and women’s tend to be smaller, says Tracy Stevens, MD, medical director for the women’s heart center at Saint Luke’s in Kansas City, Missouri. Depression Anyone who suffers from depression has a two- to fivefold increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but depression is twice as common in women as in men, says Hayes. Women are also more likely to become depressed if they have a heart attack. Smoking A real doozy for women, increasing our risk of heart disease 2 to 6 times. Women metabolize nicotine differently than men—possibly slower, exposing our bodies to its damaging effects longer—and smoking lowers protective HDL cholesterol. Alcohol “Women metabolize alcohol slower than men, so the effects linger for longer,” says Dr. Goldberg. That’s why the AHA recommends that women have only one drink per day (men can have two). Overdoing it can raise triglyceride levels, blood pressure and your risk of stroke. Cholesterol and Triglycerides Having low HDL (the good kind) and high triglycerides is an even greater threat to women’s hearts than men’s. The combo is often found in people with pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome; if you have either, avoid hormone therapy and birth control pills. Pregnancy-related Complications If you had high blood pressure or preeclampsia (a disorder marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine) during pregnancy, your chance of having heart disease at midlife doubles, even if you don’t develop chronic hypertension, Dr. Goldberg says. Hypertension Women with high blood pressure are more likely to develop stiffness in their hearts and blood vessels. Yet research suggests that only 60% of women with hypertension are treated, and among those who are, only a third have their blood pressure well-controlled. Lupus Because of the chronic inflammation that’s associated with this autoimmune disorder (which affects 9 times as many women as it does men), women who have lupus are at an increased risk for heart disease, hypertension and stroke. By Stacey Colino; Woman's Day
Posted by SJINCO at 7:20 AM