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Clogged Arteries Pose Different Dangers for Men, Women: Study
Date:11/30/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Not all clogged arteries are created equal, with women and men facing different heart risks even when they have the same amount of coronary plaque, a new study suggests.

Analyzing the results of coronary CT angiographies -- non-invasive tests that look for coronary artery blockages -- in 480 patients with acute chest pain, scientists from the Medical University of South Carolina found that the risk of major cardiac events was significantly higher in women when they had a large amount of plaque buildup and extensive hardening of the arteries.

On the other hand, men faced greater risks of heart attack or coronary bypass surgery when their arteries contained "non-calcified plaque," fatty deposits that accumulate deep in artery walls.

While the study didn't specifically quantify the risks of each scenario for men and women, it may be valuable to physicians ordering tests for heart patients in distress, said study author Dr. John Nance Jr., a radiology resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

"This is so intriguing because now we're really starting to figure out the gender differences in heart disease," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She was not involved in the study.

"We've known in the past that women tend to deposit plaque differently . . . this nuance is something that's relatively new in how we risk-stratify patients," she added. "What it tells us is when we risk-stratify patients, it becomes more important to actually visualize plaque through CTA [angiography] or catheterization."

The study was slated to be presented Wednesday at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago. Research presented at scientific meetings is preliminary and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Study participants, two-thirds of whom
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