The Latest on Heart Disease in Women

Heart disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment in women highlighted in special issue

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Heart disease is the leading cause of death in US women, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. With that in mind, the American Heart Association (AHA) annually publishes a special report focused solely on heart disease in women.

The report is published in the AHA's journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, and focuses on research promoting the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in women.

"With this issue, we strive to create a future in which a special issue on women's cardiovascular health is obsolete," said editor of the journal Harlan Krumholz, MD, in a press release. Dr. Krumholz is also the director of the Center of Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

He continued, "We will know that we have arrived when an abundance of research on the topic of women's health that generates knowledge to improve the care and outcomes of a formerly neglected population is commonplace."

Several studies were featured in this year's issue.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania led by Robert Wilensky, MD, followed more than 10,000 men and women younger than 50 for five years. While women had less severe heart disease than men of the same age on average, they had a higher risk of blocked arteries and surgical complications.

Another study from the University of British Columbia looked at ethnic differences in 49,556 men and women with heart disease. Researchers led by Karin Humphries, Dsc, found that women were at a higher risk than men for heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Chinese women had higher death rates than women of other ethnicities.

Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, and researchers from Harvard University's Brigham and Women's Hospital looked at hospital care in 49,358 patients with heart disease. They found that women were less likely to receive optimal care when discharged compared to men. Women and black patients were also more likely to die within three years compared to men and white patients.

A team led by Kim Lavoie, PhD, of the University of Quebec, found that anxiety symptoms can affect women's hearts. Women with high levels of anxiety had less blood flow to their hearts compared to women without the condition. Researchers said these symptoms may make it more difficult to detect heart disease in women.

Risk scores are often a good way to identify which patients are more likely to develop heart disease. That's why Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, PhD, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and colleagues looked at the Healthy Heart Score (HHS) results of 69,505 middle-aged women. This score allows doctors to estimate the likelihood of developing heart disease up to 20 years in the future. Dr. Sotos-Prieto and team found that HHS was a good tool for predicting future heart disease risk in women.

In a study on US Hispanic women, Catherine Vladutiu, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and colleagues looked at how birth rate affected heart disease risk. These researchers found that women who gave birth four or more times had a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity and high blood sugar, increases the risk for heart disease. The 7,467 women in this study ranged in age from 18 to 74.

AHA CEO Nancy Brown said in a press release, "The ultimate goal of Go Red for Women is to save lives. Since 2004, there has been an average annual decrease of about 2 percent in women's deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke, representing a total of about 670,000 lives. Despite this progress, we have much more to accomplish."

This research was published in the February issue ofCirculation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 24, 2016
Last Updated:
February 25, 2016