A debate has been building since the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology jointly revised statin guidelines last autumn, according to the New York Times. The guidelines recommend the drug to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, regardless of gender.
The formulation “would increase the number of adults [male and female] who would be eligible for statin therapy by 12.8 million,” the New England Journal of Medicine reported this spring. But some cardiologists believe that there aren’t enough gender-specific research studies to fully understand the benefits and risks of statins for women.
Cardiologists must use their clinical judgment when prescribing treatment, whether that includes statins for women patients or not. Not all women with elevated cholesterol need medication. That determination comes from weighing all of a patient’s risk factors–not only the “classic” ones, but also gender-specific issues such as pregnancy-related complications (pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or gestational hypertension) or autoimmune disease.
The larger issue is, heart disease is the Number 1 killer of women in the US and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. Death from coronary artery disease appears to be increasing by one percent each year for women between 35 to 54 years old, probably due to increased obesity rates.
The risk of heart disease rises the older a woman gets. Women of all ages should take steps to prevent it. Wellness and prevention through lifestyle modifications should be the first line of defense against heart disease. This includes physical activity most days of the week, weight management and healthy eating.