Are Young Women Less Informed of Cardiovascular Disease Risk?

Even when young women have a similar or greater risk for cardiovascular disease than young men, young women are 11 percent less likely to report that health care providers told them they were at-risk for cardiovascular disease prior to a myocardial infarction, according to a study published Oct. 26 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Erica Leifheit-Limson, PhD, et al., looked at data from the VIRGO study and analyzed 3,501 patients hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), ranging between 18 and 55 years of age, from more than 100 hospitals in the U.S. and Spain. Information on five potentially modifiable risk factors – diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity and smoking status – was gathered from in-person interviews administered by trained personnel.

Overall, women were 11 percent less likely than men to report that their health care provider had told them they were at risk for cardiovascular disease before the index AMI event, and 16 percent less likely to report having a health care provider talk with them about cardiovascular disease and ways to modify risk. Further, only 53 percent of young patients reported perceived risk for cardiovascular disease, and even fewer reported provider feedback on and discussion of cardiovascular disease risk and risk factor management among patients with documented risk factors, particularly young women.

"Young women cannot afford to continually be less informed than men about their risk for [cardiovascular] disease," Leifheit-Limson concludes. "We need to improve how we give information about [cardiovascular] disease to younger patients. It should be a priority for health care providers to address basic risk factors and prevention with patients at risk."

In an accompanying editorial, C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, FACC, et al., state that the findings suggest the rise of cardiovascular disease in young women "may be due, in part, to lack of risk assessment and preventative therapy." They add that the results support prior research that shows "women are less likely to receive all effective guideline-indicated cardiovascular therapy. Closing this guideline gap could potentially eliminate the adverse [cardiovascular disease] mortality persistently experienced by women."

Keywords: Cholesterol, Diabetes Mellitus, Female, Hypertension, Myocardial Infarction, Obesity, Risk Assessment, Risk, Risk Factors, Smoking, Spain

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