The Hidden Hearts report, conducted by the Mary MacKillop Institute for Heart Research at the Australian Catholic University, found there was still much to be learnt about preventing and treating the disease in women, particularly those from vulnerable populations.
The clinical guidelines for managing cardiovascular disease are also biased towards male patients, because women have been poorly represented in clinical trials for new therapies.
A report on cardiovascular disease presented to the federal government on Tuesday has recommended an urgent update of these clinical guidelines to include special consideration for the treatment of women.
The smaller body size, higher proportion of body fat, different hormones and kidney function of women mean that the dosage most suitable for male patients may not be ideal for them.
About 3400 Australian women die from a heart attack every year without ever reaching a hospital.
It also found:
- The treatment guidelines for atrial fibrillation do not acknowledge that women have a greater risk of negative consequences, and as a result they are more likely to experience heart failure or stroke.
- Treatments for stroke produce differing benefits in women.
- Diagnostic testing for coronary artery disease is not as reliable for women as it is in men.
- Following diagnosis of heart failure, women experience lower quality of life and more depression than men.
Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital director of cardiology John Atherton, who has been involved in writing the guidelines for cardiovascular management guidelines, said they were based on the existing research.
“It’s difficult to think how you would write the guidelines to say something different for men and women, but I think we need to consider that men and women have different presentations so the diagnostic guidelines probably need to think about that,” Dr Atherton said.
“We might consider having a section which is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of men and women.”
The medication was equally effective in men and women, but women with heart disease were more likely to have co-morbidities and to experience a heart attack, he said.