HomeLifestyleWhy younger women have a lower risk of heart disease than men

Why younger women have a lower risk of heart disease than men

According to a recent study in The Lancet, women are less likely to develop heart disease, especially at a younger age, because of their better risk profile than men. This further established how their associations with risk factors and those with heart disease remained similar in low-, middle- and high-income countries. The study was spread over 1.56 lakh people from 21 countries.

So, how many men and women in the study developed heart disease?

Of 1.56 lakh participants followed over ten years, 4.7 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men had a significant incidence of heart disease. When standardized for age—the average age of men was slightly higher than that of female participants—the researchers found that the incidence of cardiovascular events was 5 per 1,000 person-years in women and 8.2 per 1,000 person-years in men. .

“Women have a more favorable cardiovascular risk profile than men, especially at a younger age. This finding was supported by lower rates of major heart disease in women compared to men,” the study states.

The study said this was not because the risk factors were very different among the women, but because they developed multiple risk factors — such as high cholesterol levels — later in life.

What are the risk factors in men and women?

When it comes to the risk profile, the study found that systolic blood pressure (the pressure in the arteries when the heart is beating) increases with age in both men and women, but average levels are lower in women. Similarly, fasting blood glucose levels increased with age in both sexes, but were slightly lower in women than in men until the age of 55–70 years.

Again, the waist-to-hip ratio – which can give a more accurate measure of abdominal fat than BMI – was found to be consistently lower in women than in men of all age groups. A higher proportion of men were current or former smokers, alcohol abusers and those with little physical activity.

In contrast, the average level of non-HDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, increases with age in women, but not in men. Indeed, the concentrations of all lipids increased in females with age, but a similar pattern was not observed in males. More women also reported symptoms of depression.

Risk factors associated with a major cardiovascular event also differed slightly in men and women – high non-HDL cholesterol was more strongly associated with major cardiovascular diseases in men than in women, while symptoms of depression were more strongly associated with men. . Hypertension was the leading risk factor for heart disease in both women and men, followed by abdominal obesity in women and high non-HDL cholesterol in men.

“Women and men have similar risk factors,” says first author of the paper and research fellow at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University Marjan Vallée, emphasizing the importance of similar strategies for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases in men and women. ” Attai said in a release.

However, diet was more strongly associated with risk in women than in men – “something that has not been described previously and requires independent confirmation,” said Salim Yusuf, executive director of PHRI, a professor of medicine at McMaster. he said.

So, what needs to be done?

As the study shows, men tend to have higher levels of metabolic risk factors at an early age, so the researchers suggest that risk factor control should be initiated at an even younger age in men than in women.

The authors also suggested that studies were needed to see whether menopause may be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, as other studies that followed pre- and post-menopausal women observed that There may be more important than just an increase in bad cholesterol levels. to age. However, this was not within the scope of the present study.

The researchers also cited other studies showing that statin use may help lower bad cholesterol, significantly reducing the risk in men and women.

The researchers also noted that smoking was a risk factor for men and women worldwide, and that differences in smoking patterns reflect differences in the level of cardiovascular diseases and not the underlying risk of smoking. The well-established harmful effects of smoking highlight the importance of initiatives aimed at increasing smoking cessation rates and reducing initiation rates in all smokers, regardless of biological sex. “

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