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Early HRT Protects a Woman's Heart
Date:11/6/2007

found gender differences in how women "present" with heart disease and how they respond to treatment.

The first study found that two risk factors -- smoking and family history -- are associated with presenting with STEMI (ST-segment-elevated myocardial infarction) at an earlier age for women. In general, women tend to manifest coronary artery disease about a decade later than men.

"The most striking relationship we found was that with cigarette smoking. So, women who did not smoke had an average age of 71, whereas the average age of presentation in women who do smoke or had a history of smoking was 62," said study lead author Dr. William Herzog, of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, in Baltimore.

(A study presented Sunday at the AHA meeting by the same group of researchers found that almost all of the risk associated with earlier age of presentation was due to current smoking, rather than a history of smoking.)

These findings essentially erase the protective heart gender gap for women who smoke. "If you compare the age of nonsmoking men to the age of smoking women, it is not significantly different," Herzog said. "It suggests that women are more susceptible to the risks associated with cigarette smoking."

A final study presented Tuesday found that women are at higher risk for adverse events following implantation of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which monitors and "paces" the heartbeat.

"These results should not preclude women from receiving ICDs; however, the reasons should be investigated and, where possible, limited or at least measures taken to reduce the higher risk," said Dr. Pam Peterson, assistant professor of medicine at Denver Health Medical Center and the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center.

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