Heart disease and stroke risks are the same in men and women

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. One person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from heart disease.

Leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke are high blood pressure, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, secondhand smoke exposure, obesity, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.

In a study from the University of Gothenburg, scientists found that for men and women, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease are largely the same.

The study includes participants in both high-income and medium- and low-income countries. Cardiovascular disease is more widespread in the latter.

In the study, the team used data from 155,724 people in 21 countries, in five continents. Aged 35–70 years, the participants had no history of heart disease when they joined the study.

All cases of fatal cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure during the follow-up period, which averaged ten years, were registered.

The risk factors studied were metabolic (such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes), behavioral (tobacco smoking and diet), and psychosocial (economic status and depression).

The team found the metabolic risk factors were found to be similar in both sexes, except for high values of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, often known as bad cholesterol), where the association with heart disease was stronger in men.

The researchers say that this finding needs confirmation in more studies. 

Depressive symptoms were another risk factor for cardiovascular disease that proved to be more significant among men than women.

On the other hand, the link between a poor diet and cardiovascular disease was closer in women; and smoking, though markedly more frequent among men, was just as injurious a risk factor for women.

Overall, the researchers found broadly similar risk factors for cardiovascular disease for the male and female participants, irrespective of their countries’ income levels.

This highlights the importance of disease prevention strategies, too, being the same for both sexes.

The women’s lower overall risk of cardiovascular disease, especially heart attack (myocardial infarction), may be explained by the younger women’s higher tolerance to risk factors.

Their estrogen makes vessel walls more compliant and affects the liver’s capacity to get rid of LDL.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and calcium supplements could harm your heart health.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that blackcurrants can reduce blood sugar after meals and results showing how drinking milk affects the risks of heart disease and cancer.

The study was conducted by Annika Rosengren et al and published in The Lancet.

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