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Cardiac Mortality Rates in Women Progress at Constant Rate

Last Updated: September 08, 2011.

Heart disease mortality rates in women progress at a constant rate as they age, which contradicts the belief that the risk of cardiovascular death for women increases sharply after menopause, according to a study published online Sept. 6 in BMJ.

THURSDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Heart disease mortality rates in women progress at a constant rate as they age, which contradicts the belief that the risk of cardiovascular death for women increases sharply after menopause, according to a study published online Sept. 6 in BMJ.

Dhananjay Vaidya, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues investigated changes in heart disease mortality rates with age to determine whether lower heart disease mortality rates in women compared to men could be attributed to the protective effects of premenopausal hormones. Using longitudinal mortality data from three birth cohorts, models were compared assuming a linear correlation between mortality rates and age (absolute mortality), or a logarithmic correlation (proportional mortality). The main outcome measure was the fit of models for England and Wales and for the United States.

The investigators found that proportional age related increases in heart disease mortality fit the England-Wales data better than absolute age related increases. Male mortality decelerated after age 45 years (from 30.3 to 5.2 percent per age-year), whereas the difference in female mortality at the same age was not significant. In contrast, female breast cancer mortality decreased significantly (from 19.3 to 2.6 percent per age-year) after age 45. Similar results were found using U.S. data.

"Heart disease mortality in women increased exponentially with age, with no acceleration at menopause. In men, there was a rapid increase during young adulthood followed by reduced rates of increase," the authors write. "The early rapid acceleration in male heart disease mortality could explain these sex differences rather than menopausal changes in women."

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