Health

More women than men die of heart failure. Here’s why

Researchers have found that more women than men die of heart failure and 50 per cent of the heart failure cases among women are caused by having a heart attack, which can be treated with modern methods.

According to the study, 50 per cent of women experiencing heart failure and the cause is generally related to having untreated high blood pressure levels over time, which leads to progressive stiffening of the heart.

There is no effective treatment for this kind of heart failure yet, the study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

“Men and women have different biologies and this results in different types of the same heart diseases. It is about time to recognise these differences,” said study researcher Eva Gerdts from University of Bergen in Norway.

For the study, the researchers have compared common risk factors for heart diseases and how these affect men and women differently. They have, among other things, focused on the sex differences in the effect of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), 11 per cent women and 15 per cent men are obese (BMI over 30 kg/ m2) globally. In Norway, one in five adults are obese.

“If we see this from a life span perspective, we can see that obesity increases with age, and that this trend is greater for women than men. Obesity increases the risk of having high blood pressure by a factor of three. This, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease,” Gerdts said.

According to the researchers, obesity also increases the risk of diabetes 2. A woman with diabetes has a much higher relative risk of heart complications and death than a man.

“We know that women with diabetes 2 are usually obese and some of the fat is stored in the heart, which makes it more vulnerable for disease,” Gerdts added.

The researchers explain that many of the differences between woman and men when it comes to heart disease are connected to the sex hormone, oestrogen.

The hormone prevents the formation of connective tissue in the heart, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. In men the effects are just the opposite.

“We see that obese men store oestrogen in their fat cells in the abdomen, which has a bad effect on the heart,” Gerdts said.

After menopause, women lose the oestrogen advantage. Their arteries become stiffer and more vulnerable for diseases, the study said.

“We think that this is part of the explanation for why high blood pressure seems to indicate higher risk of heart disease amongst women,” Gerdts said.

In addition, smoking is also a part of the risk scenario for women.

“For women, the effects of risk factors such as smoking, obesity and high blood pressure increase after menopause,” Gerdts concluded.

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