Study Finds Recommendations for Lowering Heart Disease Risk Vary by Gender

Study finds men are more likely to be prescribed statins and women are more likely to be advised to make lifestyle changes to lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A new study indicates that for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), women are more likely to be advised to make lifestyle changes whereas men are more frequently prescribed statins. These findings were presented at European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Asia, held by the ESC, the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology, and the Asean Federation of Cardiology.

“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,” study author Prima Wulandari, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a press release. “This is despite the fact that guideline recommendations to prevent heart disease are the same for men and women.”

The study authors noted that women with CVD are administered less aggressive treatment than men, which prompted them to investigate whether these differences extend to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The study authors evaluated data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2017 to 2020.

They identified 8512 men and women 40 to 79 years of age with no CVD history, of whom 2924 individuals were found to have an increased risk of developing CVD, according to a validated risk calculator. Subsequently, these patients were deemed eligible to receive statins.

The study authors calculated the odds of being prescribed statin therapy among the 2924 study participants compared with being advised to make lifestyle changes, which include losing weight, exercise, lowering salt intake, and reducing fat or calorie consumption. The analyses were adjusted for age, CVD risk, body mass index, resting heart rate, depression score, and education status.

The study found that men were 20% more likely to be prescribed statins than women, who were 27% more likely to be advised to lose weight and 38% more likely to be advised to exercise. Further, women were 27% more likely to be advised to lower their salt intake and 11% more likely to be advised told to reduce their fat or calorie consumption.

“Following our analysis, we conducted a review of the literature to find possible explanations for the results,” Wulandari said in the release. “This demonstrated that a potential root of the discrepancy in advice is the misconception that women have a lower risk of cardiovascular 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.”

Current ESC CVD prevention guidelines advise adults of all ages to get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per week, or an equivalent combination. Guidelines also suggest quitting smoking and to consume a healthy diet heavy on plant-based foods, such whole grains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, and nuts.

Further, they also recommend limiting salt intake to fewer than 5 g per day. Overweight and obese individuals are advised to lose weight to reduce blood pressure, blood lipids, and the risk of diabetes, which also lessens the likelihood of developing CVD. Statins are recommended based on individual characteristics, such as age and the risk of developing heart disease, according to the study.

Reference

Women and men mistakenly given different advice to prevent heart disease. European Society of Cardiology. News release. December 2, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/972871.

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