Older women may have a higher risk of heart attack than men

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understand heart attacks

Heart attacks can be scary. They occur when the heart’s blood supply is blocked, often from the buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that form plaque in the arteries.

This condition is called atherosclerosis. Although both men and women can suffer a heart attack, a recent study shows that postmenopausal women may be at greater risk than men of the same age.

The Study: Postmenopausal Women and Heart Attacks

The study was presented at EACVI 2023, a major scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology. It was also published in the European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Imaging.

Researchers studied nearly 25,000 adults and used advanced imaging techniques to examine their arteries. They then followed these participants to track the occurrence of heart attacks and deaths.

dr Sophie van Rosendael from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands led the study.

She explained that atherosclerotic plaque, the substance that clogs the arteries, appears to be a higher risk for postmenopausal women than for men of the same age.

The team’s findings could have significant implications for treatment.

For example, postmenopausal women may need higher doses of statins or additional lipid-lowering drugs. However, more studies are needed to confirm these results.

What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of the arteries due to the buildup of plaque, which is made up of fat and cholesterol.

Women generally develop atherosclerosis later in life than men and suffer heart attacks at older ages. This delay is partly due to the protective effects of estrogen.

The aim of the study was to find out whether the prognostic significance of atherosclerotic plaques is the same for women and men at different ages.

This information could be crucial when choosing treatments to prevent heart attacks.

Understand the study methodology

The study involved 24,950 patients undergoing coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA), a test that provides 3D images of the heart’s arteries.

Researchers used the Leiden CCTA score to assess overall atherosclerotic burden. This grading system takes into account the presence, composition, location and severity of arterial narrowing of plaque.

The patients were divided into three categories based on their heart attack risk: low atherosclerotic burden, moderate and high.

The main objective was to compare Leiden CCTA scores between women and men of similar ages.

What were the results?

The study found that women develop coronary artery atherosclerosis about 12 years later than men.

Interestingly, women were more likely to have non-obstructive disease, meaning the plaque isn’t completely clogging the artery, but it’s still risky.

The risk of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE), including death and myocardial infarction, was predicted equally by the burden of atherosclerosis in premenopausal women and men younger than 55 years of age.

However, in postmenopausal women aged 55 years and older, the risk of MACE was higher than in men at a given value.

What does this mean for postmenopausal women?

dr van Rosendael explains that the higher risk for postmenopausal women could be due to the smaller inner diameter of their coronary arteries.

Therefore, the same amount of plaque could have a greater impact on blood flow.

These results link the well-known acceleration of arteriosclerosis development after menopause with a significantly increased relative risk for women compared to men.

This study underscores the need for a more individualized approach to preventing and treating heart disease, particularly for postmenopausal women.

If you care about the health of your heart, please read Studies on a Major Cause of Heart Disease and How to Clear the Plaques That Cause Heart Attacks.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about it How Eating Eggs May Help Lower Your Risk of Heart DiseaseAnd Vitamin K2 could help reduce the risk of heart disease.

The study was published In Eur Heart J Cardiovascular Imaging.

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