Clogged arteries pose different dangers for men

November 12, 2012

Clogged arteries pose different dangers for men

It appears that even if men and women have the same quantity of coronary plaque they may have different risks of having a heart attack. A study conducted by the University of South Carolina has found that women had a far higher risk of major cardiac events if they had a large buildup of plaque in addition to hardening of the arteries. This was found after the results of coronary CT angiographies on 480 patients with chest pain were analyzed. A coronary CT angiography is a non invasive procedure that checks for blockages in the coronary arteries. However men had a greater chance of heart attack or would require a coronary bypass if their arteries had ‘non calcified plaque’. These are fatty deposits that are found in the artery walls. Both of the findings were part of a study conducted by study author Dr. John Nance Jr., a radiology resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and colleagues. The research has yet to be peer reviewed and should be considered as preliminary but is planned to be presented to the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago. The researchers accept that the study did not specify how risky each situation was for the individual, whether male or female but did think that it was a valuable addition to the knowledge base of the doctors when considering when to have heart tests for patients who may be distressed. Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, is the director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and had no involvement with the study. She says, “This is so intriguing because now we’re really starting to figure out the gender differences in heart disease. We’ve known in the past that women tend to deposit plaque differently . . . this nuance is something that’s relatively new in how we risk-stratify patients”. She added that the study, “Tells us that when we risk-stratify patients, it becomes more important to actually visualize plaque through CTA (angiography) or catheterization”. About 66% of the study participants were women with an average age of 55. The researchers identified the seriousness of the condition by looking at the size of the blockage, the number of blood vessel segments having plaque and how the plaque was composed by carrying out coronary CT angiographies.

During the 13 month follow up period the researchers found the association between the numbers of major cardiac events and the factors seen above. All types of coronary plaques were tested as a group and individually, non calcified, calcified and mixed.

Throughout the period of the follow up, 70 patients had major cardiac events. These events included bypass surgery, unstable angina, heart attacks and death.

Dr. Jennifer Mieres, is a cardiologist with the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y. and he acknowledges the limits of our knowledge when he says, “We’re not sure why the risk differences exist (between the sexes) but women have smaller blood vessels and men have larger. We also believe that atherosclerosis (artery hardening) differs in how it’s deposited in men and women”.

Experts are agreed that by using information brought forward by this study, it will help doctors modify treatments to make it more gender oriented and give more personalized attention.

“I think this is the sort of stuff we’re going to start seeing more and more of. There are people out there who are anti-customized care and just don’t think that’s what we should really strive for, but this data kind of argues for that”, said Nance in defense of the findings.

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