When a man suffers a heart attack at a young age, klaxons sound and red flags flutter for his son. Pointing to a son's inherited risk of going down the same road, physicians probably will urge him to stay away from cigarettes, watch his weight and exercise regularly. And there's evidence that that advice prompts many men to take heed.
But do alarm bells sound for the female child of a premature heart attack victim? Does she hear them? A study in the September issue of the American Heart Journal suggests the answers are no and no. The study establishes that although the daughters of families with premature heart disease are indeed at higher risk of developing heart disease themselves, they either are failing to get that message or not bothering to heed it.
"Women seem to feel they have a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to heart disease," says Dr. Alexis Anvekar, California internist and American Heart Association spokeswoman. "They seem to feel that it's a man's disease."
The American Heart Journal study looked at data collected on 2,400 people as part of the Dallas Heart Study, which surveyed and examined about 6,000 Texas residents to track the incidence and development of heart disease.
The data supported a long-held belief that most women have lower levels of plaque and fatty buildup in their arteries. But closer inspection showed that among women with a family history of premature heart disease, the concentration of arterial plaque and fatty deposits was twice that of women with no such family history.
Melissa Healy writes for the Los Angeles Times.