The paper summarizing their work appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(19):1762-1766).
The paper is entitled “Sex-Specific Trends in Midlife Coronary Heart Disease Risk and Prevalence.”
Its authors are Amytis Towfighi and Ling Zheng (both from the Department of Neurology at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles); and Bruce Ovbiagele (Department of Neurology at the University of California at Los Angeles).
The authors performed research in the prevalence of heart attacks for men and women at midlife (around 35 to 54 years of age) because “… little is known about current sex-specific trends in symptomatic cardiovascular disease.” [Abstract to paper]
Thus, their goal was to learn more about gender differences of myocardial infarction (MI, or heart attack) and the risk of future coronary heart disease.
Thus, they analyzed over 4,000 adults in the United States who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 1988 to 1994 and 1999 to 2004. At the time of their study, these adults were between 35 and 54 years of age.
The results of the study, using the Framingham coronary risk score (FCRS), found that men had a higher incidence of heart attacks than women, when both are within the range of 35 to 54 years of age.
Page two continues with more conclusions from the study.
However, the researchers also found that the difference in the percentage of incidence between men and women had decreased.
The California researchers found, specifically, that in the adults studied from 1988 to 1994, men had a 2.5% incidence of heart attacks, while women had a 0.7% incidence—a difference of 1.8%.
In this first time frame, men had a mean FCRS of 8.6%, while women had a mean FCRS of 3.0%.
However, from 1999 to 2004, men had a 2.2% incidence of heart attacks, while women had a 0.7% incidence—a difference of 1.5%.
At this second time frame, men had a mean FCRS of 8.1%, while women had a mean FCRS of 3.3%.
The researches stated that the men “showed an improving trend” (8.6% to 8.1%, with respect to mean FCRS) while women had a “worsened” trend (3.0% to 3.3%).
They stated, “Temporal trends in FCRS components revealed that men had more improvements in vascular risk factors than women, but diabetes mellitus prevalence increased in both sexes.” [Abstract]
Page three quotes Dr. Towfighi from an LA Times article.
And, the researchers concluded, “Over the past 2 decades, MI prevalence has increased among midlife women, while declining among similarly aged men."
And, "Greater emphasis on vascular risk factor control in midlife women might help mitigate this worrisome trend.” [Abstract]
According to the October 27, 2009 Los Angeles Times article Rates of heart attacks increasing for middle-age women, “Researchers suspect increases in obesity [in women] are to blame for the 'ominous trend.'”
The lead author in the study, Dr. Amytis Towfighi, stated that there is presently "… an ominous trend in cardiovascular health among midlife women.”
Dr. Towfighi added, “People didn't think that women in that age group were at high risk for heart disease and stroke."
She comments, "But I suspect that with growing rates of obesity, women aren't as protected as much as they have been in the past."