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

n helping patients achieve lifestyle changes, such as weight management, smoking cessation and physical activity. They felt even less effective managing patients' lipids, controlling blood pressure, and preventing heart disease, compared to PCPs and cardiologists.

Mosca and her colleagues believe that their study provides important insights into cardiovascular disease prevention, especially in women. Despite the limitation that the study may not represent all physicians, wrote the researchers, "Our data may represent a best-case scenario among full-time practitioners since survey respondents may be more likely to be aware of and adhere to guidelines than non-respondents."

Therefore, the researchers concluded that interventions are needed to raise awareness and encourage healthcare providers to adopt heart disease prevention guidelines. In particular, educational efforts should be targeted to assist physicians in heart disease risk assessment, which may help reduce sex-based disparities in preventive care. The American Heart Association has developed an educational tool kit for physicians to address the treatment gap in the findings of this study.

Education and support needs to be targeted to women as well. "Lifestyle is the fundamental method to prevent heart disease," Mosca said. "Therefore, it is vital that we continue to address barriers to help women stop smoking, get regular physical activity, eat heart healthy, and maintain a healthy weight. This will prevent the development of risk factors in the first place so any gender gap in treating them would become moot."

In a separate online study of a sample of 1,000 nationally representative women conducted by the American Heart Association, the data showed that there is a growing awareness of the risk of heart disease among female consumers. Fifty-seven percent correctly identified heart disease or a heart attack as the leading cause of death in women overall. Caucasian wome
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Contact: Darcy Spitz
darcy.spitz@heart.org
212-878-5940
American Heart Association
1-Feb-2005


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