It is no longer assumed that female hormones protect against heart disease, she said. Doctors are paying more attention to heart risk factors in women because "there is a red flag about women not being absolutely protected against heart disease in midlife, as we had thought, and we are aware that more effort must be made to reduce their risk," Towfighi said.
The second study used information from a different data bank listing death rate trends from 1994 to 2006. It found a marked reduction in hospital deaths from heart attacks in all patients, especially among women. For women under 55, the risk of dying dropped by 53 percent, which was the greatest improvement noted. The least reduction, 33 percent, was seen in men under 55.
A detailed examination of cardiac risk factors showed that "women experienced less worsening than men," said Dr. Viola Vaccarino, professor of medicine and director of the Emory Program in Cardiovascular Outcomes Research and Epidemiology, lead author of the report.
But changing attitudes about women and heart disease may also have had an effect, she said.
"Perhaps physicians are paying more attention to the detection and treatment of women with heart disease," Vaccarino said. "It could be the same thing happening in the general public, with women getting more knowledgeable about this."
"Basically, both studies show that there still is a gap between men and women," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. "They both show the importance of continuing to pay attention to women's risk of cardiovascular disease and treatment of their heart attacks."
The studies offer some good news for women, Goldberg said. "I'd like to think that's because we have increased the awareness of women themselves. But these two important studies show the need to continue rese
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