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Heart Disease Gender Gap Narrows
Date:10/26/2009

Middle-aged women have more heart attacks than in past, but are more likely to survive, studies show

MONDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Hearts attacks have increased among middle-aged American women in the past two decades, but their chance of survival has improved, two new studies show.

"We found that men still have a higher prevalence than women, but what has happened is that the gap has narrowed," said Dr. Amytis Towfighi, assistant professor of clinical neurology at the University of Southern California, lead author of one of two reports in the Oct. 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. "For women it has increased, for men it has decreased."

Her study used data from two national surveys conducted from 1988 to 1994 and 1999 to 2004. While 2.5 percent of the men and 0.7 percent of the women reported a history of heart attacks in the earlier survey, 2.2 percent of men and 1 percent of women reported heart attacks in the more recent survey.

The narrowing of the male-female difference is easily explained, Towfighi stated. "Very basically, the risk factors are being better controlled in men than in women."

In men, levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol remained the same between the two surveys, while levels of "good" HDL cholesterol improved. Blood pressure levels improved, and fewer men smoked.

The improvements for women were marginal, with LDL cholesterol levels about the same. The only risk factor that improved in women was HDL cholesterol. Diabetes and obesity increased in men and women, the study found.

"We don't know exactly what is going on in terms of risk factors being better controlled. Women aren't checked as often," Towfighi acknowledged.

Societal changes may play a role, she said.

With more women in the work force, she said, their rising rates of obesity and diabetes can be attributed to job demands that limit their ability to exercise and follow
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