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Brigham Develops New Model to Track Heart Disease in Women

Although cardiovascular disease kills more women each year than breast cancer and lung cancer combined, studies have shown that traditional ways of assessing women’s risk for heart disease have been woefully inadequate. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have determined that a new model designed specifically for women may result in better preventative and diagnostic care for women.

For the past 40 years, doctors have used five factors to determine a patient’s risk level for heart disease: a patient’s age, smoking habits, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and “good cholesterol,” known as HDL. Up to 20 percent of women who suffer heart attacks and other coronary problems, however, have none of the obvious risk factors, the Boston Globe reports. The new model for women would include two other factors: a patient’s family history of coronary disease and a patient’s C-reactive protein, which can be used to measure inflammation.

Feminist Majority Foundation Medical Director Dr. Beth Jordan said of the development, “For a very long time, most of the diagnostic and therapy studies were focused on men. This study is based on that gender disparity. Future studies will hopefully show how healthcare providers can further tailor prevention and treatment strategies against this number one killer of women in the US.”

LEARN MORE Read “The Beat of a Different Heart,” a Ms. health column about women’s cardiac health and how it differs from men’s

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Sources:

Boston Globe 2/14/07; BBC 2/14/07; Kaiser Women's Daily Health Policy Report