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Heart Disease Health Center

More Women Know Their Heart Risk

Awareness Efforts Helping, but Gaps Remain
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Diagnosis, Treatment Disparities

Mosca's survey was published in a special issue of the AHA journal Circulation, devoted to women and heart disease.

Other research highlighted in the journal included:

  • Chest pain among women is still not taken as seriously as it is among men. A study found that women with stable angina (chest pain) are less likely than men to be referred for diagnostic tests or receive treatment.
  • Women are more likely to have a worse outcome than men after bypass surgery. The Canadian study found that women were readmitted to the hospital for cardiac reasons more often after having a bypass, but their long-term survival following the surgery appeared to be equal to or slightly better than among men.
  • Researchers reported that electrocardiogram (ECG) abnormalities appear to predict heart disease risk among postmenopausal women. Two separate studies identified two critical markers for cardiac death risk and heart failure. The studies included more than 38,000 postmenopausal women given ECGs. The studies confirm that ECGs should be interpreted using gender-specific measures, the authors conclude.

Fat but Fit? Probably Not

Finally, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston reported that obesity and sedentary lifestyle are independent risk factors for developing heart disease, challenging the idea that exercise alone or maintaining a healthy weight alone is all that is needed to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Frank Hu, MD, PhD, and Harvard colleagues examined body weight, body type, and activity level among 88,393 female nurses followed for two decades, until 2000.

Compared with women who exercised regularly and were not overweight, the researchers reported that:

  • Women who were obese and sedentary were 3.5 times as likely to have heart disease.
  • Obese women who exercised regularly were 2.5 times as likely to develop heart disease.
  • Women who were not overweight but did not exercise had about 1.5 times the risk.

Cigarette smokers who were obese and sedentary were nine times as likely as active, normal-weight nonsmokers to develop heart disease.

"A high level of physical activity did not eliminate the risk of coronary heart disease associated with obesity, and leanness did not counteract the increased coronary heart disease risk associated with inactivity," Hu says.

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