- Physicians mistakenly give women different medical advice to prevent heart disease compared to men.
- Women are more likely to be told to diet and exercise and men are more likely to be given a prescription for cholesterol-lowering medication.
- Heart disease is the top cause of death for men and women in the U.S.
A new report has found that physicians often mistakenly give men and women different advice on how to prevent heart disease.
Women are typically advised to make lifestyle modifications— i.e. lose weight, eat healthier, exercise regularly —whereas men are more likely to be prescribed lipid-lowering medications.
The findings, presented Friday at the European Society of Cardiology Asia, show that gender heavily influences how patients are counseled when it comes to heart disease prevention, despite the fact that the guidance is the same for all genders.
Heart disease is currently the
In 2020, for example, approximately 697,000 Americans died from heart disease. That math suggests 1 in 5 deaths is due to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Failing to treat women aggressively with lipid-lowering therapy will result in increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Secondly, this study suggests that men are less likely to be offered lifestyle advice than women,” McGowan told Healthline.
For the study, the researchers evaluated the health data of 8,512 men and women aged 40 to 79.
The participants had no history of heart disease, however, 2,924 had a higher risk of developing heart disease and were eligible for statins, according to a risk calculator.
The researchers then calculated how likely the men and women were to be prescribed statin therapy and be advised to lose weight, eat healthier, and exercise more.
The research team found that men were 20% more likely to be prescribed statins compared to women.
According to the analysis, women were 27% more likely to be advised to lose weight, 38% more likely to be advised to exercise regularly, and 11% more likely to lower their fat or calorie intake.
“Our findings highlight the need for greater awareness among health professionals to ensure that both women and men receive the most up-to-date information on how to maintain heart health,” study author Dr. Prima Wulandari, a cardiology clinical researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a press release.
This isn’t the first study to show that men and women are treated differently for heart disease prevention.
In addition, being a woman is a higher predictor of in-hospital mortality among younger people admitted for acute myocardial infarction-cardiogenic shock, a
The new report adds to the growing evidence suggesting that women would greatly benefit from earlier and more aggressive treatment.
“Women are often perceived to be at lower risk for cardiovascular events than men and often are less aggressively treated. Even women who have had a cardiac event are less aggressively treated, often being prescribed lower doses of statins and other lipid-altering medications,” says McGowan.
Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, a cardiologist and founder of the Preventative Cardiology Clinic near Minneapolis, Minnesota, said in many ways the new findings aren’t surprising.
Klodas pointed out that historically women have been underrepresented in clinical trials for heart disease prevention and care.
“But that means we must be better advocates for ourselves – and to be more pro-active in preventing heart disease,” Klodas said.
The researchers suspect that the discrepancies in care are due to a misconception that women have a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to men.
While Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, many women aren’t aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death, according to recent
“It kills more women than all forms of cancer, combined. Therefore, we need to be just as aggressive in how we treat risk factors in women as we do in men,” says Klodas.
According to McGowan, lipid goals are no different in men and women and anyone with cardiovascular disease should take statins.
Avoiding smoking and eating a healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts can reduce your risk of heart disease, too.
Individuals with obesity are advised to lose weight to help lower their blood pressure, blood lipids, and reduce their risk of diabetes.
Though it’s crucial to manage high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar, many people are unaware they have these conditions.
“Controlling what you have control over is essential,” Klodas said.
This study, along with past evidence, sheds light on the gender bias in heart disease prevention and highlights the need to improve treatment and survival outcomes for women with or at risk for heart disease.
“We need to educate women regarding their lipid goals and empower them to push their health care providers to treat them accordingly,” McGowan said.
“We need to teach our medical students and young doctors in training that women should be treated as aggressively as men in terms of cardiovascular risk reduction,” McGowan added.
A new report has found that doctors often mistakenly give men and women different advice on how to prevent heart disease. Gender heavily influences how patients are counseled when it comes to heart disease prevention, despite the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women and the guidance is the same for all genders.