September 1, 2005

Heart disease spotted, treated too little in women

LONDON (Reuters) - Cardiovascular disease in women is
under-diagnosed and under-treated compared to cases in men, an
expert said on Friday.

"Many women are unaware that coronary heart disease is
their main killer; their biggest fear is breast cancer," Ghada
Mikhail, of North West London Hospitals and St Mary's Hospital
Trust in London, wrote in an editorial in the British Medical

Although the disease kills more women in Europe than men
and is a leading cause of death in both sexes worldwide, it is
still often thought of as a male illness.

Women account for only 30 percent of participants in most
studies and medical trials in cardiology, and healthcare
professionals seem insufficiently aware of cardiovascular
disease in women, according to Mikhail.

The problem is compounded because risk factors and symptoms
for heart disease differ between men and women.

Women with diabetes have 2.6 times the risk of dying of
coronary heart disease than women without diabetes compared to
a 1.8-fold rise in the risk among men.

Women also have more atypical symptoms such as back pain,
burning in the chest, abdominal discomfort, nausea and fatigue
than men. Often they need more urgent treatment.

"Better awareness and education, earlier and more
aggressive control of risk factors, and appropriate access to
diagnosis and treatment are desperately needed to tackle this
potentially fatal disease," Mikhail added.