Women's heart risk underestimated by doctors, resulting in less preventive care than in men

en were significantly more likely to be classified as at a lower risk than men. When the researchers adjusted for the differences in the perception of risk, the differences in treatment of women were resolved in most cases.

"The finding that differences in the perception of risk of heart disease accounted for differences in preventive care is critical," said Mosca. "These data suggest that if we educate physicians to more accurately assess risk in women, they will be more likely to receive appropriate preventive care. Preventive measures, including lifestyle and drug therapy, have been shown to save lives in both men and women."

Furthermore, less than one in five physicians (8 percent of PCPs, 13 percent of OBGyns, and 17 percent of cardiologists) recognized that more women die of heart disease than men each year.

"This striking finding underscores the need to raise awareness about the importance of women and heart disease among healthcare providers as well as the public," said Mosca.

Insight about barriers to heart disease prevention was gained from the survey. A substantial number of physicians (28.7 percent of PCPs, 37 percent of OBGyns, and 18 percent of cardiologists) strongly agreed or agreed that factors controlled by the patient were the greatest barrier to preventing heart disease.

"This may reflect a perceived difficulty in influencing crucial lifestyle factors within the patient's control, not the physician," said Mosca. "Lack of time to practice prevention was also a commonly cited barrier among OBGyns and PCPs, as was lack of insurance coverage for lifestyle interventions. This suggests that policy makers and insurers need to address system constraints to better serve public health." Cardiologists, OBGyns, and PCPs did not rate themselves as very effective in helping patients prevent cardiovascular disease and managing their risk factors. OBGyns, in particular, did not consider themselves as very effective i

Contact: Darcy Spitz
American Heart Association

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