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Heart attack rates up in women

October 26, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Heart Rates of heart attacks, as well as risk factors for cardiovascular disease, have dropped in middle-aged men over the last 20 years while women’s rates and risk factors have increased, according to a study published Monday. The research suggests that risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are not assessed or treated as aggressively in women as they are in men.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, examined data from national surveys taken from 1988 to 1994 and a second time period, from 1999 to 2004. More than 4,000 men and women age 35 to 54, completed the surveys. Researchers looked at how often men and women had heart attacks and compared their scores on a tool that measures the risk of having a cardiovascular event over 10 years. The measurement, called the Framingham coronary risk score, takes into account age, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and smoking history.

In both time periods, men had more heart attacks than women. But the rates in men improved from 2.5% in the first time frame to 2.2% in the second time frame while women’s rates increased from 0.7% to 1%.


Men’s cardiovascular risk factors improved or remained stable over the two study periods while the only risk factor that improved among women was high-density lipoprotein levels. Diabetes prevalence increased among men and women, most likely due to the obesity epidemic, the authors said.

Traditionally, women have been thought to be largely protected from heart attacks and stroke before menopause due to hormonal influences, said the lead author of the study, Dr. Amytis Towfighi, an assistant professor of neurology at USC. But heart attacks and strokes are increasing in middle-aged women.

“People didn’t think that women in that age group were at high risk for heart disease and stroke,” she said. “But I suspect that with growing rates of obesity, women aren’t as protected as much as they have been in the past.”

The news isn’t all bleak for women, however. A second study in the same journal found that in-hospital survival rates after a heart attack have improved more for women than men.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: A woman undergoes an ultrasound test to look for atherosclerosis. Credit: Karen Tapia  /  Los Angeles Times

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Comments (1)

After reading this article I was impressed in not so much the results but what was not indicated within. Stress factors in both test groups increased, but how do you measure stress? Well, you can look at lifestyle changes, the behaviors resulting from, and the end result. What has changed during this time frame when measuring the candidates?

Stress because of conditions in the workplace and homefront have increased appreciably. Look at the divorce rates, single mothers, and more females working outside the home. With positive conditions of employment and financial rewards requires behavior modifications. However those are not always in the best interest of the person who bears the greatest responsibility.

The woman has always been looked upon to maintain stability in the home. Successful child rearing is conditional on various parameters being met, and when there are time constraints on the mother, everyone will suffer. However it is noted male heart attacks actually reduced during this time period. Why is that?

There responsibility decreased because there was an additional bread winner in the family. With gains there are resultant losses to be expected as well. Where is the trade-off when it comes to keeping the parents/partners healthy?

The responsibility for the home has to be negotiated where the parents have the full support in all things from their spouse. Responsibilities with less time to perform them actually becomes greater responsibility who has to shoulder the load. What additional factors might have contributed to the overall reduction in health? Sleep or lack of, alcohol consumption or other aberrant behavior, less time to work out, less time with children and less true 'free' time to either partner.

If you were to poll all adult females within the general populace, I would imagine 70% would prefer being a stay at home mother, but yet 50% of the workforce and greater are now working. What is the answer cannot be quantified except by the person who has to make that decision. Both husbands and wife have to agree on what their goals maybe and go from there. If I had a woman who made great money and she wanted me to stay at home with the kids, I'd jump at it happily.

Domestic engineer is a nice title to have with great benefits as long as long as you are a good negotiator. Seriously, I believe there is a direct correlation on the overall health of the female because of the conditions I listed.



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