Women missing out on the best heart care

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  Last updated July 24, 2019 at 5:20 pm


There is a mistaken belief that coronary heart disease only affects men and it’s becoming problematic for women, who are missing out on optimal care.

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Coronary heart disease is one of the major causes of death of women in Australia. Credit: Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images

Coronary heart disease doesn’t just affect middle-aged men; in fact, almost half of those who die from the disease are women.

Researchers suggest that this mistaken belief might be the reason why women who suffer from the disease are not receiving optimal care.

Research carried out by researchers from La Trobe University and published in the journal Heart, found that many Australians living with coronary heart disease (CHD) are under-prescribed recommended medications, are not monitored for major risk factors and have treatments that do not achieve recommended goals. In particular, women and those aged less than 45 years were more likely to be under-treated compared with similarly affected men and older people.

Women are more likely to be under-treated compared to men

The study, led by epidemiologist Rachel Huxley, analysed GP records of just under 131,000 patients with a history of CHD from 2014-2018.

It was found that women were less likely than men to be prescribed with any of the four recommended medications for CHD, namely antiplatelet agents, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and statins.

A second key finding was that of the four medications recommended for daily use, only about 22 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men were prescribed all four.

In contrast, 21 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men were not prescribed any of these four medications.

Women account for 44 per cent of CHD related deaths

According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures for 2015, CHD is a leading cause of death among women in Australia, with women accounting for 44 per cent of all deaths from CHD.

“There’s a widely-held assumption that CHD only affects older men, but almost half of people who die from the disease are women,” Huxley says.

“Our study shows that people with a history of CHD, particularly women and people aged less than 45 years, are less likely to have their condition managed according to current clinical guidelines. Despite the differences in CHD management, women were more likely to achieve treatment targets than men.”

CHD management needs to be improved

Huxley says sex disparities in the management of CHD in primary practice needed addressing to improve the outcomes for all affected people and their families.

The National Heart Foundation welcomed the latest findings. The Foundation’s Director of Prevention, Julie Anne Mitchell, says research consistently highlighted that women were “invisible when it comes to heart disease”.

Heart health checks, lifestyle changes and appropriate medications are just as important for women as they are for men, and these findings challenge all clinicians to keep this in mind when assessing patients,” Mitchell says.

“Australian research highlights that total healthcare spending on women with heart disease is less than half of that spent on men, and this latest research shows yet again why we need to redress the imbalance.”


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