Women & Heart Health

Knoxville (WVLT) - In this week's Healthy Tennessean, treating women with heart problems differently than men.

A new study suggests surgeries which typically save men's lives can be deadly for women.

Researchers found women who have major heart operations, like a coronary bypass, are more likely than men to die.

This evening, local medical opinion about the reasons why.

Interventional Cardiologist Doctor David Wood says there have been hints in the past women don't respond to treatment in exactly the same way as men.

But, now, the American College of Cardiology is revising its treatment guidelines to recommend doctors should think twice before subjecting women at low risk of heart disease to invasive procedures.

Dr. Wood says, "When they're diagnosed with heart disease, they tend to have more advanced heart disease, and often times that means that their coronary arteries are smaller and more advanced in their disease process."

Women tend to have smaller hearts and blood vessels, which could complicate any surgical procedure.

When catheters need to be inserted into the artery to take photos of what is happening inside the body, having small arteries makes that difficult.

Women also tend to have more side effects from medicine, and hormonal factors could play a role as well.

Dr. David Wood says, "Heart disease is more deadly in women, because often times their symptoms are atypical, when compared to men. Up to 30 to 40 percent of women have very atypical symptoms."

Compounding the problem is the fact women are, on average, a decade older than men by the time they develop heart problems, so other health problems associated with age could worsen their chances of surviving heart surgery.

Dr. David Wood says, "Certainly, women tend to be older when they're diagnosed with coronary artery disease, and heart disease in general. So, they're risk, consequently, is higher from procedures."

Although researchers say no definitive conclusions should be drawn from the study, they say the idea women might need different treatment than men should be studied further.

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