May 11, 2009

Women’s chest pain linked to heart risk

Women with chest pain but no coronary artery disease are at an elevated risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke, U.S. researchers said.

Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, said women and men experience heart disease differently and require different treatments.

These results combined with prior work suggest that women are not just smaller versions of men when it comes to heart disease, Merz said in a statement.

The study analyzed data from two previous studies -- the Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation study, which examined symptomatic women referred for coronary angiography, or an X-ray examination of the blood vessels or chambers of the heart, and followed them for about five years; and the St. James Women Take Heart project, which enrolled asymptomatic, community-based women with no history of heart disease who were followed for up to 10 years.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that compared with the WISE women, the Women Take Heart women had a lower prevalence of obesity, family history of coronary artery disease, hypertension and diabetes. Over a five-year period, the WISE women had more cardiac events than the Women Take Heart women.

The women who experienced the most frequent cardiovascular events were those with four or more cardiac risk factors, the study said.