Young women less likely to be informed of heart risk

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Prior to a heart attack, women were less likely to be aware of the risk, says a US study.

Young women are less likely than men to be informed about their risk of possibly having a heart attack and about preventative therapy. This is the result of a study carried out by US scientists published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology”.

Researchers from Yale University in New Haven (Connecticut) analysed data from the VIRGO study (Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender and Outcomes of Young AMI Patients). The data included medical records and surveys from 3,501 heart attack patients under the age of 55 (2,349 women, 1,152 men), treated in 100 hospitals in the USA and Spain between 2008 and 2012.

At least one modifiable risk factor (high cholesterol level, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, smoking) was found in 97 per cent of women and in 99 per cent of men; two thirds had at least three risk factors. The most common factor was high cholesterol. With the exception of smoking, all risk factors were more prevalent in the USA than in Spain.

Prior to their heart attack, about half of the US patients reported being aware of being at risk or had talked to a doctor about ways to reduce the danger. Among the Spanish participants, only 36 per cent had been informed about their risk and only 22 per cent reported talking to a doctor.

Broken down by gender, the study showed that women were 11 per cent less likely than men of being informed of their elevated risk. Talking to a doctor about preventative therapy was 16 per cent less likely when compared with men.

“Young women cannot afford to continually be less informed than men about their risk of heart disease,” emphasised study author Erica Leifheit-Limson. Women as well as their physicians often underestimate the risk. She urged an improvement of information for young female patients. “It should be a priority for healthcare providers to address basic risk factors and prevention with patients at risk.”

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