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Heart Failure Health Center

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Heart Failure Different in Women

Study Explores Gender Differences in Risk Factors, Survival

Half of Heart Failure Patients Are Women continued...

In one national survey, which included more than 8,000 women with heart failure, more than a fourth (27%) had high blood pressure and just 3% had coronary artery disease.

But having coronary artery disease was more likely to lead to heart failure among women than high blood pressure.

Other sex-specific differences identified in the review included:

  • As with heart disease in general, women tend to be older than men when they develop heart failure.
  • Survival among women with heart failure is better than for men with the disease. The reasons for this remain unclear.
  • Women with heart failure are more likely to be sicker than men and have more hospital stays. They are also more likely to suffer from depression than men.

Does Gender Affect Treatment Outcomes?

The retrospective analysis suggests that gender may be a factor in the effectiveness of certain heart failure treatments.

Treatment benefits were seen in women with heart failure who received beta-blockers, aldosterone antagonists, and pacemakers.

Clear benefits were not seen with other treatments including ACE inhibitors and implantable defibrillators, but Hsich says this doesn’t mean these therapies are not useful in women.

“My guess is all these treatments work, but some may not work as well as they do in men,” she says. “We need more trials with sex-specific data to figure this out.”

Cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of New York University’s Women’s Heart Program and author of several books exploring heart health in women, agrees.

“Clearly we need more studies examining sex-specific differences in responses to the treatments for heart failure and heart disease in general,” she tells WebMD.

She says campaigns by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute have succeeded in raising awareness about the importance of aggressively treating heart symptoms in women.

But she adds that too little is known about how gender affects heart disease diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes.

“Women need to be asked to participate, and they need to be willing to participate in clinical trials,” she says. “Even if it doesn’t help them, it might help their daughters and granddaughters.”

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