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Men are more likely to get drugs to prevent heart disease. Women are more likely to be told to eat less and exercise.


Researchers found women were less likely to be prescribed drugs to lower cholesterol. Physicians must understand women don’t face a lower risk of heart disease, researchers say.

Men are more likely to be given medication to prevent heart disease, while women are more likely to be told to exercise more or change their diet, according to a new study.

The study was presented last week at the ESC Asia conference, organized by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology (APSC), and the Asean Federation of Cardiology (AFC).

Prima Wulandari of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, author of the study, said the treatment and guidance from doctors is notably different by gender.

“Our study found that women are advised to lose weight, exercise and improve their diet to avoid cardiovascular disease but men are prescribed lipid lowering medication,” Wulandari said in a news release about the study. “This is despite the fact that guideline recommendations to prevent heart disease are the same for men and women.”

Men were 20% more likely to be prescribed statins than women, the study found. Statins are given to reduce cholesterol.

Women were 27% more likely than men to be advised to lose weight, and women were 38% more likely to be advised to exercise, researchers found. And women were given different diet advice than male patients. Women were 27% more likely to reduce their salt intake, and were 11% more likely to eat less fats and to reduce their caloric intake, the study said.

Researchers examined literature and found one possible cause for the differences in treatment and guidance stems from the incorrect perception that women have a lower risk of heart disease than men.

“Our findings highlight the need for greater awareness among health professionals to ensure that both women and men receive the most up-to-date information on how to maintain heart health,” Wulandari said in the release.

The study examined more than 2,900 people with higher risk for heart disease, using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2017 to 2020.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in five deaths among women is attributed to heart disease, according to the CDC.

Researchers have previously found differences in treatment between men and women when it comes to heart disease.

Women with cardiovascular disease said they were less likely to be prescribed a statin or a preventive aspirin therapy than men, according to a 2018 study of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Women also have been found to receive less aggressive treatment in hospitals than men after a heart attack.

A 2020 study published in Circulation: Heart Failure found women between the ages of 18 and 55 were less likely to be given stents or balloons to open blockages in the arteries or the heart, and they were less likely to get mechanical pumps to supplement heart function. Women in that age group were also more likely to die before discharge from the hospital than men, the study found.

Researchers found fewer women were prescribed beta blockers of cholesterol-lowering drugs than men, according to a 202 study published in Circulation. In that study, which examined patients in Canada, researchers found women had a greater risk of developing heart failure or dying within five years of their first severe heart attack than men.

Another study released earlier this year Black patients received less aggressive treatment for advanced heart failure.

Black patients received transplants and pumps about half as often as white patients, according to the study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health. The findings were published in Circulation: Heart Failure. Researchers said the disparities could be tied to racial bias.

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