Women diagnosed with cardiovascular disease tend to be treated less aggressively than men. And now it also appears that when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease, doctors’ recommendations to men and women also vary based on a patient's gender, according to the findings of a recent study.
Men are more likely to be prescribed statins, and women are more likely to be told to exercise more and eat better, the researchers found.
“Women are advised to lose weight, exercise more, and improve their diet, while men are more likely to be prescribed lipid-lowering medication,” co-author Prima Wulandari said, in a statement. These differing recommendations are at odds with guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention, which are the same for both men and women.
The root of these discrepancies in advice may be that women are thought to be at lower risk of cardiovascular disease than men. This assumption, held by many physicians, is incorrect. “Our findings highlight the need for greater awareness among health professionals to ensure men and women receive the most up-to-date information on how to maintain heart health,” Wulandari, a physician at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, said.
Men were 20 percent more likely to be prescribed statins than women. Women were 27 percent more likely than men to be told to lose weight, and 38 percent more likely to be told to exercise more.
Data came from about 8,500 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2017 and 2020. The participating men and women were between 40 and 79 years old. None had a history of cardiovascular disease. About 3,000 of this group were determined to be at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, making them eligible to receive statins.
Within this group at risk for heart problems, men were 20 percent more likely than women to be prescribed statins. Women were 27 percent more likely than men to be told to lose weight, and 38 percent more likely to be told to exercise more. Women were told to reduce their salt intake 27 percent more often than men. They were also told to consume fewer calories and reduce fat 11 percent more frequently.
The analyses accounted for age, cardiovascular disease risk, body mass index, resting heart rate, depression score and level of education.
The research was presented at ESC Asia, a meeting organized by the European Society of Cardiology, the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology and the Asean Federation of Cardiology. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so its findings should be considered preliminary.