How you are treated for coronary artery disease may depend on your gender after a groundbreaking study found that the key genes that contribute to heart attack are different in men and women.
The international study, in collaboration with the Australian Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, compared hundreds of male and female patients with coronary artery disease – the leading cause of heart attacks.
The institute’s executive director, Professor Jason Kovacic, said the breakthrough had revealed large molecular and genetic differences between men and women at high risk of heart attacks.
« In the walls of the blood vessels that lead to the heart, there are fundamental differences between men and women at the cellular level, » said Prof. Kovacic.
« We used to understand that men and women have different risk factors. For example, men had higher rates of smoking than women and were more overweight, cholesterol and blood pressure were different, and hormone levels were different.
« (But) what this study shows, beyond that, is that there are fundamental differences in the wall of the blood vessels that lead to the heart that are causing these blockages in men and women that we hadn’t recognized until then. »
In men, the genes that interact and are the main drivers of the disease are related to the immune system, but in women, the main driving genes were the smooth muscles and other cells in the walls of the arteries.
« When we compared the male and female patients, we found a huge difference in these genes in smooth muscle and other cells, which are the most common cells in the arterial wall. These are some of the most critical cells that cause heart attacks, » said Prof. Kovacic .
Women have differences in coronary artery disease compared to their male counterparts, and this discovery might answer why.
« It explains why the blocks appear at different stages of life. Women tend to get blocks about five years later than men, and women tend to develop more diffuse blocks, while men are more likely to develop acute blocks that lead to a heart attack. These Discovery explains why that is the case, « he said.
Jill Babicci works as a heart nurse, but it wasn’t until her mother died of heart disease in 2016 that she started organizing tests.
A scan showed that she had a 90 percent blockage in a major artery and was about to have a heart attack.
« I was totally shocked, I had no symptoms, I was very fit and not overweight and had no other risk factors. I had just turned 60 and I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t asked. » Tests, « said Ms. Babicci of Darlinghurst, adding that she has been using stents since then.
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