Men and women now on equal footing for cardiovascular risk, with both improving

April 4, 2018 by Orli Belman, University of Southern California
A USC study of risk factors for heart disease and stroke found that differences related to age and gender had largely gone away. Credit: iStock

Both men and women over 50 reduced their risk factors for heart disease and stroke between 1990 and 2010, according to a new study from USC demographers. The study also showed that differences related to age and gender had largely gone away.

"Women and men are almost the same now and older people are almost the same as middle-aged people," said senior author Eileen Crimmins, University Professor and AARP Professor of Gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

The study credits decreasing rates of smoking and increased use and efficacy of prescription medications for reductions in high and levels. Crimmins noted that these findings of similar profiles for men and women may help explain why the life expectancy gap between men and women has been narrowing.

"We've always thought men and women are really different," she said. "But now that we can control for that were worse for men, the women don't look that different."

Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease

The researchers found that both men and women decreased their mean number of , with the greatest improvement among those 60-69 years old. However, the improvements were paced differently. Men showed steady improvement over the two decades, while women's gains occurred in the latter portion, from 2000 to 2010. In fact, there was an increase in cardiovascular risk among women aged 40-60 in 1990 and 2000, but by 2010, this was no longer the case.

The researchers also said that the use of hormone replacement therapy was unrelated to high risk blood pressure in women.

"It appears women were not being treated as frequently or as effectively as men for hypertension and high cholesterol," Crimmins said. "But they are now."

Indeed, the effectiveness of cholesterol medication appeared to consistently increase for both men and women. The percentage with controlled cholesterol rose from around 63 to over 95 percent for men, and from 65 to 88 percent for , according to the study.

"Further medication-related reductions in cardiovascular risk and mortality may be increasingly difficult," Crimmins said. "The use and efficacy of these medications may have helped counteract increases in indicators for obesity and diabetes since 1990."

The researchers said that stopping smoking, eating healthier diets and increasing physical exercise could lead to more potential improvements. They also said that more research is needed on how increasing prevalence of atrial fibrillation and obesity will relate to cardiovascular health, dementia and mortality.

Estimating total risk of cardiovascular disease

Crimmins and her colleagues used data of adults age 40 and older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to estimate total cardiovascular risk, the prevalence of individual risk factors and potential factors contributing to changes in risk. They compared measures for these risks on three dates about 10 years apart, between 1990 and 2010. Measures included systolic and diastolic blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) for blood glucose levels.

Explore further: Key heart risks decline for older Americans

Related Stories

Key heart risks decline for older Americans

April 3, 2018
(HealthDay)—Older Americans dramatically reduced their risks for heart attack and stroke over a recent 20-year period, a new analysis finds.

Breastfeeding may have long-term heart health benefits for some moms

February 28, 2018
Women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy and who breastfed their babies for at least six months following birth had better markers of cardiovascular health years later compared to women who never breastfed, based ...

What younger women need to know about heart disease

March 5, 2018
(HealthDay)—Heart disease used to be thought of as a man's issue, but women are unfortunately catching up.

Most U.S. women don't know their personal risk for heart disease, poll finds

February 1, 2018
High cholesterol, diabetes and obesity can all lead to heart disease and stroke. But most American women don't know if they're at risk, a new poll finds.

Back to basics for heart health

February 2, 2018
As heart month kicks off, doctors at Baylor College of Medicine say the first step to taking control of your health and preventing cardiovascular disease is understanding the basics and what they represent for your heart.

Risk factors explain most heart failure risk in incident A-fib

June 19, 2017
(HealthDay)—Four modifiable factors account for most of the population attributable risk of heart failure among women with new-onset atrial fibrillation (AF), according to a study published online June 14 in JACC: Heart ...

Recommended for you

A better clot-buster drug for strokes?

April 26, 2018
(HealthDay)—After a stroke, many patients are given the clot-busting intravenous drug alteplase, but another drug may be more effective, Australian researchers report.

Imaging may allow safe tPA treatment of patients with unwitnessed strokes

April 25, 2018
A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators may lead to a significant expansion in the number of stroke patients who can safely be treated with intravenous tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), the "clot ...

Mice make over four times as many new heart muscle cells when they exercise, study finds

April 25, 2018
Doctors, health organizations, and the Surgeon General all agree that exercise is good for the heart—but the reasons why are still not well understood.

Heart disease may only be a matter of time for those with healthy obesity

April 24, 2018
People who are 30 pounds or more overweight may want to slim down a bit even if they don't have high blood pressure or any other heart disease risk, according to scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Women at greater risk of stress-induced ischemia after heart attacks

April 24, 2018
Women who've previously experienced a heart attack have twice the risk of later myocardial ischemia provoked by mental stress when compared to men with a similar history, according to a study published in Circulation.

A wearable device intervention to increase exercise in peripheral artery disease

April 24, 2018
A home-based exercise program, consisting of wearable devices and telephone coaching, did not improve walking ability for patients with peripheral artery disease, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.