Men and women with mild
heart disease share the same risks, at least over the short term, a new study
Doctors have thought that
women with mild heart disease do worse than men. This study, however, suggests
that the rate of heart attacks and death among men and women with heart disease
Meanwhile, both men and
women who don't have build-up of plaque in their coronary arteries have the
same good chance of avoiding severe heart-related consequences, said lead
researcher Dr Jonathon Leipsic.
Important new finding
"If you have a normal
CT scan, you are not likely to have a heart attack or die in the next 2.3 years – whether you're a man or a woman," said Leipsic, director of medical
imaging at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia.
important new finding."
Leipsic said the ability to
use a CT scan to diagnose plaque in the coronary arteries enabled researchers
to determine that the outcomes are the same for men and women, regardless of
what other tests show or what other risk factors patients have.
The results of the study were discussed at the annual meeting of the Radiological
Society of North America in Chicago.
When the coronary arteries – the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart – start
building fatty deposits called plaque, coronary artery disease occurs. Over
time, plaque may damage or narrow the arteries, increasing the chances of a
Dr Gregg Fonarow, a
spokesperson for the American Heart Association, said coronary artery disease is
associated with both fatal and nonfatal heart episodes, even when a person's
arteries aren't narrowed. Fonarow was not involved with the new research.
Leading cause of death
The new study found similar
increased risk for major adverse cardiac events in men and women, even after
risk adjustment, said Fonarow, who is also a professor of cardiology at the
University of California in Los Angeles.
Cardiovascular disease is a
leading cause of death in both women and men.
"Irrespective of sex,
controlling the seven major heart health risk factors – smoking, high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, inactivity and poor diet – can
substantially reduce the risk of the development and progression of coronary
artery disease," Fonarow said.
These new study findings
also suggest that effective medical therapy, along with lifestyle modification,
should be started in both men and women who have mild heart disease, he said.
For the study, Leipsic and
his colleagues used data from a large international study registry. That registry
included nearly 28 000 people from six countries who had images taken of their
The researchers identified
more than 18 000 people without known heart disease whose scans were normal or
showed mild disease, in which arteries were less than 50% blocked.
These patients, including
about 8 800 women and 9 300 men, were then matched with more than 11 000
Based on scan findings and
standard risk factors for heart attack and death, the researchers calculated
that men and women with mild heart disease had the same risk for death or heart
In addition, men and women
who didn't have any heart disease had the same odds for good outcomes, Leipsic
Over more than two years of
follow-up, only about 250 of the 18 000 patients had a heart attack or
cardiac-related death, the researchers said.
Because the new study was
presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
To learn more about heart
disease, visit the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.