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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

His and Her Heart Disease


Medical research is confirming that, even in heart disease, men and women share a lot of the same risk factors, said Padma Shri & Dr. BC Roy National Awardee, Dr. KK Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India. However, there are some important differences as reported in Harvard News Letter.

Smoking: Cigarette smoking tops the list of lifestyle risk factors for men and women alike. But for women who take birth control pills, smoking increases the risk of heart attack and stroke even more.

Cholesterol: Levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol above 130 mg/dL are thought to signal even greater risk for men, while levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol below 50 mg/dL are seen as greater warnings for women. High triglyceride levels (over 150 mg/dL) are also a more significant risk factor for women.

High blood pressure: Until age 45, a higher percentage of men than women have high blood pressure. During midlife, women start gaining on them and by age 70, women, on average, have higher blood pressure than men.

Inactivity: Only about 30% of Americans report getting any regular physical activity, but men tend to be more physically active than women, with the greatest disparities in the young (ages 18 to 30) and the old (65 and older).

Excess weight: Being heavy has long been thought to set one on the road to heart disease, but the location of the extra pounds may be more important than their number. Abdominal fat, which releases substances that interfere with insulin activity and promote the production of bad cholesterol, is more toxic than extra padding on the hips. Many health authorities consider a waist measurement of 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men as a more precise indicator of heart disease risk than body mass index.

Diabetes: Diabetes more than doubles the risk of developing heart disease for both men and women; however, diabetes more than doubles the risk of a cardiac death in women, while raising it to 60% in men.

Metabolic syndrome: Having any three of the five features of metabolic syndrome – abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and high blood sugar or insulin resistance – is riskier for women than for men, tripling the risk of a fatal heart attack and increasing the chance of developing diabetes 10–fold. The combination of a large waist and high triglycerides is especially toxic to women.

Psychosocial risk factors: The depth of the heart–head connection is still being plumbed, but there’s enough evidence to implicate certain factors as contributors to heart disease, such as chronic stress, depression, and lack of social support. Neither sex fares better than the other overall, but research indicates that some factors predominate in men and others in women.

Stress is an equal–opportunity burden. Women are twice as likely to be depressed as men and to suffer more from emotional upheaval. In fact, the reported cases of ‘broken heart syndrome’ – the sudden, but usually reversible, loss of heart function after an intense emotional experience – are almost exclusively in older women. Anger and hostility have long been cited as risk factors in men, but that’s probably because most studies of heart disease excluded women. It’s well documented that men are more likely to lack social support – especially after retirement – than are women.
Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is now thought to set the stage for the deposition of atherosclerotic plaque. Women have much higher rates of conditions that often lead to persistent, low–grade inflammation. For example, lupus more than doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke for women.

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