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Gender Gap in Midlife Heart Disease Risk Is Narrowing

Last Updated: October 27, 2009.

The risk of midlife myocardial infarction is increasing for women, and vascular risk factor prevention should be given a higher priority, according to a study in the Oct. 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

TUESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of midlife myocardial infarction is increasing for women, and vascular risk factor prevention should be given a higher priority, according to a study in the Oct. 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Amytis Towfighi, M.D., of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues set out to determine sex-specific prevalence of myocardial infarction in midlife, as well as future coronary heart disease risk, using data on men and women aged 35 to 54 years from the 1988 to 1994 and 1999 to 2004 cohorts of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

There was a higher prevalence of myocardial infarction among men than women in both cohorts, but more recently the prevalence increased in women and decreased in men, narrowing the gap, the researchers found. The prevalence of diabetes mellitus has increased for both sexes, but the vascular risk factors for men have improved more over time than they have for women, the investigators discovered.

"The current findings of a trend toward worsening myocardial infarction prevalence rates and hard coronary heart disease risk among women suggest that women are not absolutely protected," the authors write. "While the rate of coronary heart disease remains lower in women than in men, more attention should be paid to overall vascular risk factor prevention in women in their midlife years."

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