We’re getting closer to understanding women’s heart disease risk 4



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It’s often associated with men, but heart disease continues to be the number one killer of women. While lifestyle factors are certainly a significant risk, researchers now believe they have found another factor that makes women particularly susceptible to the disease.

A study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics examined the data from five European studies involving nearly 4000 men and women. They discovered that women who had a version of a gene called BCAR1 were more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes than women who didn’t have the gene.

Men who carried the gene, however, were not at an increased risk.

The researchers from the University College London compared the genetic makeup of the participants, the health of their blood vessels and the thickness of their arteries and discovered that women who bear the gene in question are more likely to have thicker arteries.

They believe the gene may encourage the mass migration of cells into the walls of key blood vessels – making them thicker, reports the BBC.

Previous studies have shown that heart disease behaves differently in men and women, and this study hopefully brings us a step closer to understanding why.

Researchers hypothesise the gene plus a woman’s naturally occurring oestrogen could cause the increased risk of heart disease.

Lead author of the research, Freya Boardman-Pretty, says: “We’ve known for a long time that risk factors for heart disease are different for men and women.

“This gene effect seen only in women, could be contributing to this difference, although we expect there are a lot of other factors at play.

“If we can confirm that this gene is involved, and work out exactly how it leads to an increased risk of heart disease in women, it could become a new target for drugs in the future.”

Further research is needed in this area. In the meantime, women should be particularly vigilant in addressing lifestyle factors that could contribute to their risk of heart disease.

The Heart Foundation says risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol and smoking.

Nine in 10 adult Australians have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and one in four has three or more risk factors.

Are you concerned about heart disease? Did you know it is the leading cause of death for women 75 and over? Do you consider it a “women’s disease”?


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Interesting study!

    There’s something IMPORTANT I should share too…

    Women OFTEN do not have the kind of heart attack SYMPTOMS that are commonly talked about.
    I found this out first hand & was only told this afterwards whilst I was in hospital after my heart attack.

    I woke in the middle of the night feeling nauseous. Unusual for me.
    This feeling grew and then I started getting pains in my tummy. Not so unusual for me. Most of my life if I was quite stressed about something I’d get tummy trouble that would quickly end up with a bout of diarreah & then all would be fine.

    That night I thought that’s what was going on. I wasn’t FEELING stressed but I was going through a marriage breakup after 20 yrs (happy that it was over really, but still stressful as we were still sharing the same home while finishing our renovation so we could sell it). I was also working from home so I was surrounded by noise a lot of the time each day & an inconsiderate partner.

    However, that Saturday night I was home alone and all had been peaceful that week. I’d eaten a healthy dinner & was in bed by 10pm. Had had 2 drinks between 5-9pm.

    I’ve never been overweight in my life, had regular checkups, was 54 & felt more like 34. No blood pressure issues, cholesterol issues. Nada.

    So back to the middle of the night…
    Luckily the bathroom was attached to the master bedroom. It also had a heated tumbled marble floor. Because I was back & forth throwing up & on the loo so many times that I finally just took my pillow & lay down on the warm bathroom floor so I could be closer to the sink & toilet! There was nothing else left in me to throw up or “do” but my body just kept heaving & reaching. I was alarmed at the severity of it all but figured I’d somehow poisoned myself with my own cooking!

    My (now ex) partner came home & went to his room without noticing I was on the bathroom floor (& I hadn’t heard him come home). So it was 7.30am on Sunday morning when he visited the bathroom & found me on the floor.

    By this time though I was no longer vomiting etc, I felt as though I’d pulled a muscle or perhaps even broken a rib throughout the violent heaving & fetching I’d experienced. Exhausted and in pain now I asked him to call an ambulance.

    When they arrived they did a bunch of tests immediately and reassured me “it’s not your heart”…which I laughed at. No I said its my tummy. So more tests were completed in the ambulance & more jokes made. I was admitted into emergency at 8.30am Sunday as a “gastro” patient & that team did their tests including taking some blood.

    THEN all hell broke loose. When they got the blood tests back they saw that I had the enzyme in my blood which is released into the bloodstream after a heart attack. It takes a couple of hours (apparently) for it to show up but it had been many hours for me so there it was.

    I was so lucky I didn’t have a SECOND heart attack or it would have killed me I’m told. I lost 20% of my heart muscle (btw the remaining 80% has since proved to be awesome as it now does the work as if it was at 100%). It’s been 6 years now. I still get chest pain though – it’s been investigated many many times since after you’ve experienced a heart attack you never truly feel safe again from having another one & the rule is to err on the side of caution (but it’s not as though you live in a state of fear :))

    Women don’t usually get “normal” symptoms.
    You DON’T need to have the “triggers” in order to have a heart attack. (Several teaching hospitals & highly thought of heart specialists in both Sydney & Melbourne have all said the same thing – no one has been able to explain WHY I had a heart attack. My personal belief is that as women we tend to RISE ABOVE any circumstances in our lives & soldier on. I believe we all ACCUMULATE stress in our body. I think of this as an ENERGY block. Some of us use food when we ‘re stressed, others use alcohol, my stress reliever (I should say “ignorer”), was work.

    Please look at what stress you might be “ignoring” and make a commitment to yourself to take up a stress relief program that feels right for yourself. For me it was working with “energy” and learning what DEEP relaxation feels like (as opposed to my old way of vegging out on the lounge watching telly after dinner :))

    I’m now also creating a gentle, relaxing business still using my accumulated knowledge & expertise but WITHOUT lots of looming deadlines etc.

    Here’s the beginnings of it if you’re interested 🙂 maybe like me you’re full of life after 60 (I’m 62 now but still feel 20 yrs younger at least!).

    (The Sanctuary) also on FB.

  2. Thankfully haven’t had heart attack, but had warning. Had angina on exercise, and spasmodic irregular heart beat. Had triple bypass. fifteen years ago My dad, his brother and cousin all had heart attacks, latter two resulted in instantaneous deaths.

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