Not long ago, health experts thought heart disease was something only men had to worry about. Case in point: When the American Heart Association held its first public conference for women in 1964, the name of the event was Hearts to Husbands. The sole objective? To teach wives how to keep their spouses healthy?with no mention of how heart disease might be affecting them.
"We've come a long way," says Jennifer Mieres, M.D., a cardiologist at North Shore--LIJ Health System in New York and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women awareness campaign. "Now, there's no mistaking that heart disease is an equal-opportunity killer." In fact, it kills 1 out of every 2.6 American women, making it the No. 1 cause of death for both sexes nationwide.
Yet even as public awareness of female heart disease grows, researchers still are parsing out the particulars. Women historically have been underrepresented in heart studies, partly due to concerns that female hormone fluctuations would distort the results. But therein lies the rub: We're not just smaller versions of men.
A wave of newer studies reveals that women's unique chemical makeup combined with anatomical differences (such as smaller arteries and veins) affect how heart disease develops in us, how accurate diagnostic tests are, and how well we respond to certain medications.
So Better Homes and Gardens took a closer look at the latest research to see where men and women split when it comes to matters of the heart. The findings might surprise you--and might even save your life.
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