Heart failure affects at least 26 million people worldwide, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. But a new study says half of the women diagnosed with the condition are not getting the right treatment.
The findings from The University of Bergen were published in Nature Medicine and found that there’s a reason why more women than men die of heart failure. The reason is that only 50% of the heart failure cases among women are caused by having a heart attack, which can be treated with modern methods, a summary from Science Daily notes.
In general, the cause of heart failure for the other half of women is untreated levels of high blood pressure over time. When left untreated, the heart begins to stiffen. An effective treatment of this sort of heart failure has yet to emerge.
Professor Eva Gerdts, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen and Professor Vera Regitz-Zagrosek ved Charité Universitätsmedizin analyzed the differences in how men and women are affected by the risk factors of heart disease.
“Men and women have different biologies and this results in different types of the same heart diseases. It is about time to recognise these differences,” Gerdts said.
In reviewing the risk factors, researchers found women’s heart disease risks are influenced by obesity, estrogen and smoking. They also focused on the differences in high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
The World Health Organization stated that among adults 18 or older, 15% of women were obese compared to 11% of men. In the U.S., 39.8% of adults are obese, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reported.
“If we see this from a life span perspective, we can see that obesity increases with age, and that this trend is greater for women than men,” Gerdts said. “Obesity increases the risk of having high blood pressure by a factor of three. This, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease.”
The professor also notes that increased rates of obesity boost the chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Diabetic women have a greater chance of having heart issues and death than men.
When it comes to smoking, the CDC states women over age 35 who smoke have a slightly higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease than men who smoke.
“For women, the effects of risk factors such as smoking, obesity and high blood pressure increase after menopause,” Gerdts said.
And then there’s the sex hormone estrogen. It prevents the formation of connective tissue in the heart, making it harder for the muscle to pump. After menopause, women’s arteries become stiffer and more vulnerable to disease. Yet in men, the opposite effect occurs.
“We see that obese men store estrogen in their fat cells in the abdomen, which has a bad effect on the heart,” Gerdts said.
She also pointed out in her study that there needs to be national consensus about how not to get heart disease.
“Another important point concerning how to avoid heart disease is to ask about what the national health service is doing on this issue,” Gerdts said. “Heart disease remains among the most common cause of death and reduced quality of life in women. Medically speaking, we still do not know what the best treatment for heart- attack or -failure is in many women. It is an unacceptable situation.”