Heart Disease: Women Tougher Than Men?
Study: Women Underrate Severity of Their Heart Disease
WebMD News Archive
Downplaying Heart Disease
The reasons for the differences aren't totally clear. Doctor's attitudes and
lack of awareness have been "leading suspects," says Kim Eagle, MD, in
a news release.
However, "no one has examined differences in [men's and women's]
attitudes," Eagle continues. Eagle is a professor of internal medicine and
the clinical director of the University of Michigan's Cardiovascular
"Although our study cannot prove that women's 'toughness' influences
their tendency to seek and accept aggressive care for their heart problems, we
hope it prompts further investigation of this question," Eagle says.
Heart Patient Survey
The researchers mailed surveys to about 1,200 people seen at the University
of Michigan Hospital from 1999-2002 for problems including heart attacks and
unstable angina (chest pain).
Only 40% of the patients responded. Men and women were equally likely to
respond, and they seemed similar to people who didn't respond, the researchers
Male and female participants had similar backgrounds, in terms of race and
their type of heart problem. However, the women tended to be older, less
educated, had more heart symptoms, and took more prescription drugs.
Patients completed several surveys. In one survey, they rated the severity
of their heart disease on a five-point scale ranging from "very mild"
to "very severe."
About 42% of men and women called their disease "very mild" or
"mild." Equal percentages opted for more severe categories.
"The implications of the findings of this study are not trivial,"
the researchers write.
"It is known that women delay seeking medical care when they experience
symptoms of acute [sudden] coronary syndrome. Women are also less likely to be
selected for invasive treatments such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass
graft surgery," they continue.
"The fact that women perceive the severity of illness to be no greater
than men do, even when the clinical evidence suggests they have more severe
disease, may help explain some of the variation in care-seeking behavior and
treatment decisions between men and women," the researchers conclude.