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Recent research from Sweden reveals women with heart disease are less likely to receive cholesterol-lowering medication compared to men, prompting calls for gender-neutral prescribing practices.

Women unlikely to take cholesterol-lowering medications

According to Dr. Nina Johnston from Uppsala University, cholesterol-lowering medications are crucial for saving lives and averting heart attacks, making them imperative for all patients diagnosed with coronary artery disease. Regrettably, the research underscores a concerning trend where women are being deprived of access to these vital drugs.

Patients with coronary artery disease often need medication to manage symptoms and prevent adverse events like heart attacks. European Society of Cardiology guidelines advise statins to lower cholesterol levels. If statins alone don’t suffice, combining them with ezetimibe is recommended. These guidelines apply to both genders, yet studies show women are less likely to achieve target cholesterol levels. This study investigates gender differences in treatment adherence.

The study involved over 1,400 individuals diagnosed with coronary artery disease between 2012 and 2020, none of whom had previously experienced a heart attack. Researchers analyzed data on cholesterol levels retrieved from electronic health records and medication prescriptions from the Swedish National Prescribed Drug Registry. Over a three-year period, it was found that a lower percentage of women received cholesterol-lowering drugs compared to men, with a smaller proportion receiving specific drug combinations.

Cholesterol-lowering treatment rates among women high at diagnosis

Researchers investigated cholesterol treatments among men and women with chronic coronary syndrome across different age groups. Cholesterol-lowering treatment rates were highest at diagnosis but declined over three years, especially among women. For instance, among those under 60, 65% of women and 79% of men received treatment at diagnosis, dropping to 52% of women and 78% of men after three years. Women were also less likely than men to achieve their LDL cholesterol goals.

There is need to urgently of address the undertreatment of heart disease in women, advocating for equal prescribing practices to ensure they receive recommended therapies and avoid adverse outcomes. It highlights the surprising statistic that cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in women, surpassing all cancers combined across multiple countries.