In a new study review, researchers from the University of Bergen says that half of the women with heart failure may get the wrong treatment.
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.
For the other half of women experiencing heart failure, the cause is generally related to having untreated high blood pressure levels over time, which leads to progressive stiffening of the heart.
There is no effective treatment for this kind of heart failure yet.
The team says men and women have different biologies and this results in different types of the same heart diseases. It is about time to recognize these differences.
Another important point concerning how to avoid heart disease is to ask about what the national health service is doing on this issue.
Heart disease remains among the most common cause of death and a reduced quality of life in women.
The researchers say that medically speaking, scientists still do not know what the best treatment for a heart- attack or -failure is in many women.
In the review, they have compared common risk factors for heart disease and how these affect men and women differently.
They focused on sex differences in the effect of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 11 percent of women and 15 percent of men are obese (BMI over 30 kg/ m2) globally. In Norway one in five adults is obese.
From a life span perspective, obesity increases with age, and this trend is greater for women than men. Obesity increases the risk of having high blood pressure by a factor of three. This, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease.
Obesity also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. A woman with diabetes has a much higher relative risk of heart complications and death than a man.
The team explains that many of the differences between women and men when it comes to heart disease are connected to the sex hormone, estrogen.
The hormone prevents the formation of connective tissue in the heart, which makes it harder for the heart to pump. But in men, the effects are the opposite.
Obese men store estrogen in their fat cells in the abdomen, which has a bad effect on the heart.
After menopause, women lose the estrogen advantage. Their arteries become stiffer and more vulnerable to disease.
In the fact that for persons under 60, high blood pressure is most common amongst men. For persons over 60, it is the opposite.
The researchers think that this is part of the explanation for why high blood pressure seems to indicate a higher risk of heart disease amongst women.
They say smoking is also a part of the risk scenario for women. During the past decades, more women have started smoking than men.
For women, the effects of risk factors such as smoking, obesity and high blood pressure increase after menopause.
One author of the study is Professor Eva Gerdts, Department of Clinical Science.
The study is published in Nature Medicine.
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