Heart health checked less often in women, study finds

Photo (c) puhhha - Fotolia

Researchers say many consumers mistakenly consider cardiovascular disease as a 'man's disease'

One of the pieces of advice that you’ll so often hear from health experts is to meet regularly with your general practitioner for regular check-ups and testing. However, it turns out that many women are foregoing screens to test for cardiovascular disease.

A new study conducted by the Georgia Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney finds that men are much more likely to be tested for heart disease, with screening for young women being much lower. The cause? Consumers still think of heart disease as a “man’s disease,” a fact that is leading to many deaths in the female population.

"Unfortunately there is still the perception that heart disease is a man's disease. This is not the case here in Australia, the UK or the US and we fear that one of the reasons more women are dying from heart disease is because they are not being treated correctly, including not even being asked basic questions about their health," said associate professor and researcher Julie Redfern.

Dangerous precedent

The study involved over 53,000 Australian participants from over 60 sites across country, with each person being asked a number of questions about screening practices and treatments. In all, the researchers found that women were screened for cardiovascular disease 12% less than men and were 37% less likely to be prescribed appropriate medications, such as blood pressure medication, statins, and antiplatelets.

The findings may seem surprising, since it’s not uncommon for women to be at high risk of cardiovascular disease. And, indeed, by age 65 women are 34% more likely than their male counterparts to have medications prescribed. However, Dr. Karice Hyun says that treating women later in life isn’t good enough.

"It is simply unacceptable that more than half of young women in this study did not receive appropriate heart health medications. These medications can greatly reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. If these findings are representative, many women could be missing out on life saving treatment right now -- just because of their age and gender,” she said.

Fundamental change

To fix the problem, Hyun states that an overhaul is needed so that women are treated equally by the healthcare system. She argues that doing so could save countless lives worldwide.

"This fundamentally needs to change. We need a system wide solution to addressing these very worrying gaps in heart disease-related healthcare. . . These findings really show that we need to do a better job of preventing and tackling CVD. . . if we have any hope [of] reducing the death toll,” she said.

The full study has been published in the journal Heart.

Aging-in-place? Find a modern medical alert system to ensure help is always near.