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Women 'need more support from doctors'

Women 'need more support from doctors'
29th March 2016

New research suggests that women could be at a high risk of suffering cardiac problems, as doctors are less likely to give them advice about heart disease.

A recent survey found that nearly three-quarters of women reported having one or more risk factors for heart disease. However, very few (16 per cent) had been told by their doctor that this put them at a higher risk of cardiac disease.

The findings, which will be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 65th Annual Scientific Session, reveal that more support could be given to females who may be at a higher risk of developing cardiac problems.

Current recommendations suggest that regular blood pressure and blood cholesterol checks should be given to anyone who has one of the risk factors for heart disease. They should also be given advice about how to improve their lifestyle to reduce the danger.

However, the study found that many women did not receive this care. Although just 16 per cent of those involved in the research had been told about their increased risk of heart disease, more than a third (34 per cent) had been advised to lose weight.

This focus on managing weight could be deterring many women from getting the help they need, as the survey revealed that nearly half of participants had cancelled or rescheduled an appointment until they could lose the extra pounds.

Dr Noel Bairey Merz, medical director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and the study's lead author, said heart awareness among women has "stalled", despite decades of campaigning efforts from heart health advocacy groups.

She said the survey's goal was to determine why women and their physicians were not taking action to monitor their heart health and what the "roadblocks" were.

The internet-based study, which included more than 1,000 women, asked participants about their health conditions and experiences interacting with healthcare providers.

It found that nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) had at least one heart disease risk factor, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, irregular menstrual periods, early menopause or a family history of heart disease.

Dr Bairey Merz said women often feel stigmatised, as they are most often told to lose weight, rather than having their blood pressure and blood cholesterol checked.

"If women don't think they're going to get heart disease and they're being told by society and their doctors that everything would be fine if they just lost weight, that explains the paradox of why women aren't going in for the recommended heart checks," she explained.

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