AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Women's Heart Health / 16.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Kate Smolina, PhD Banting Postdoctoral Fellow Centre for Health Services and Policy Research School of Population and Public Health The University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC  Canada  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Smolina: Women take fewer cardiovascular medications than men in an outpatient setting and there is limited information in the literature as to why. There are two possible explanations: this is either a consequence of prescribing behaviour by physicians or adherence behaviour by patients – or a combination of the two. This study showed that younger women are less likely to be prescribed or to fill their first prescription after a heart attack compared to younger men. But once the therapy is actually started, we found no sex differences in adherence. This is very helpful because it identifies the point on the continuum of care at which the disparity occurs and where we need to focus interventions.
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Heart Disease, OBGYNE, Women's Heart Health / 22.09.2015

Barbara A. Cohn, PhD Director of the Child Health and Development Studies at the Public Health Institute. Berkeley, CaliforniaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Barbara A. Cohn, PhD Director of the Child Health and Development Studies at the Public Health Institute. Berkeley, California Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Cohn: I guessed that pregnancy complications would be an early warning sign of cardiovascular problems because of the extraordinary demands that pregnancy places on a woman’s cardiovascular system. Medical Research: What data were used for this study? Dr. Cohn: The Child Health and Development Studies is a large pregnancy cohort that enrolled more than 20,000 pregnancies in the 1960’s. Women and their families have been followed now for more than 50 years. Information on pregnancy complications was captured from medical records as they occurred, long before cardiovascular disease developed. These data are the basis for the current study. Medical Research: Why hasn’t this study already been done? Dr. Cohn: Long-term, large studies of pregnancy are rare. I first tried to do this study forty years ago when I was in graduate school.   At that time, Dr. Bea van den Berg, the late, second director of the Child Health and Development Studies advised that the study mothers were still too young to observe their cardiovascular disease experience. Now 40 years later, my colleague Piera Cirillo and I have been able to test the idea that combinations of pregnancy complications are linked to cardiovascular disease death for women.
Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, Heart Disease, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Women's Heart Health / 16.09.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Carmen De Miguel, PhD | Postdoctoral Scholar Section of Cardio-Renal Physiology and Medicine Department of Medicine | Division of Nephrology UAB | The University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. De Miguel: It is known that obesity is a major risk for cardiovascular disease and that cardiovascular disease is more prevalent in the African American population. Specifically, female African Americans have an exceptionally high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Obesity is known to contribute to the development of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. All these diseases have in common persistent low-grade inflammation, and we also know that signs of inflammation can be observed in patients with cardiovascular disease years before the disease is diagnosed. A better understanding of the differences within ethnicities regarding the development of cardiovascular disease is needed and will lead to the development of better therapies targeted to each population. Based on all of this knowledge, we hypothesized that obesity would lead to different changes in the immune system of male and female, Caucasian and African American teenagers (14-20 year old). Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. De Miguel: We found differences in the immune cell profile in white and black teenagers, and within gender in the African American subjects. We believe that monitoring these differences could be used to recognize at an earlier stage those individuals that are at-risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future, and this could allow for preventive therapies that would reduce such risk. Specifically, we found that obese white teenagers decrease the numbers of T cells (a kind of immune cell) in the circulation (blood) compared to African American teenagers, which indicates that they have less systemic inflammation than the African Americans subjects in response to obesity. Within the African American subjects, we found that obese males had smaller numbers of T cytotoxic cells (CD8+ cells, a specific kind of T cell) and smaller numbers of activated T cytotoxic cells than lean males, what tells us that obese males are trying to decrease their inflammation levels. However, obese African American females do not decrease those levels, so their inflammation remains elevated. We think that the fact that they do not decrease the activation of T cytotoxic cells (CD8+ cells) could be important in explaining the high risk that black females have of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, JCEM, University of Pittsburgh, Women's Heart Health / 24.07.2015

Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H. Assistant professor Graduate School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology University of Pittsburgh MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H. Assistant professor Graduate School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology University of Pittsburgh Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. El Khoudary: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, and it increases after age 50 - the average age when a woman is going through menopause. Weight gain in women during and after menopause has long been attributed to aging, rather than menopause itself. However, recent research identified changes in body fat composition and distribution due to menopause-related hormonal fluctuations. No previous study had evaluated whether those changes in fat distribution during menopause affect cardiovascular fat. Increased and excess fat around the heart and vasculature can be more detrimental than abdominal fat, causing local inflammation and leading to heart disease. Doubling certain types of cardiovascular fat can lead to a more than 50 percent increase in coronary events. My team and I investigated whether there may be a link between menopause and cardiovascular fat using data from 456 women from Pittsburgh and Chicago enrolled in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). The women averaged about 51 years of age and were not on hormone replacement therapy. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. El Khoudary: Our study is the first to find that  late- and post-menopausal women have significantly greater volumes of fat around their hearts than their pre-menopausal counterparts. As concentrations of the sex hormone estradiol - the most potent estrogen - declined during menopause, greater volumes of cardiovascular fat were found. The finding held even after my colleagues and I took into account the effects of age, race, obesity, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, medication use and chronic diseases.
Author Interviews, Columbia, JACC, PTSD, Women's Heart Health / 30.06.2015

Jennifer A. Sumner, Ph.D.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jennifer A. Sumner, Ph.D. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health New York, NY 10032 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sumner: Cardiovascular disease, which includes conditions like heart attack and stroke, is the leading cause of death worldwide. Stress has long been thought to increase risk of cardiovascular disease, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the quintessential stress-related mental disorder. Some individuals who are exposed to traumatic events, such as unwanted sexual contact, the sudden unexpected death of a loved one, and physical assault, develop PTSD, which is characterized by symptoms of re-experiencing the trauma (e.g., nightmares), avoidance of trauma reminders (e.g., avoiding thinking about the trauma), changes in how one thinks and feels (e.g., feeling emotionally numb), and increased physiological arousal and reactivity (e.g., being easily startled). PTSD is twice as common in women as in men; approximately 1 in 10 women will develop PTSD in their lifetime. Research has begun to suggest that rates of cardiovascular disease are higher in people with PTSD. However, almost all research has been done in men. My colleagues and I wanted to see whether PTSD was associated with the development of cardiovascular disease in a large sample of women from the general public. We looked at associations between PTSD symptoms and new onsets of heart attack and stroke among nearly 50,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II over 20 years, beginning in 1989. Women with the highest number of PTSD symptoms (those reporting 4+ symptoms on a 7-item screening questionnaire) had 60% higher rates of developing cardiovascular disease (both heart attack and stroke) compared to women who were not exposed to traumatic events. Unhealthy behaviors, including lack of exercise and obesity, and medical risk factors, including hypertension and hormone replacement use, accounted for almost 50% of the association between elevated PTSD symptoms and cardiovascular disease. We also found that trauma exposure alone (reporting no PTSD symptoms on the screening questionnaire) was associated with elevated cardiovascular disease risk compared to no trauma exposure. Our study is the first to look at trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms and new cases of cardiovascular disease in a general population sample of women. These results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that trauma and PTSD have profound effects on physical health as well as mental health.
Author Interviews, Depression, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Pharmacology, Women's Heart Health / 08.06.2015

Dr. Karin Rådholm MD Ph.D. Division of Community Medicine, Primary Care, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, Department of Local Care West, County Council of Östergötland, Linköping, SwedenMedicalResearch.com Interview with Dr. Karin Rådholm MD Ph.D. student Division of Community Medicine, Primary Care, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University Department of Local Care West, County Council of Östergötland, Linköping, Sweden MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Rådholm: Psychosocial risk factors and depressive disorders often co-occur with general medical comorbidities, such as myocardial infarction. Depression is more common in patients with diabetes than in patients without diabetes. About 10-30% of patients with diabetes have a comorbid depressive disorder, which is double the estimated prevalence of depression in individuals without diabetes. There is an association between comorbid depressive symptoms and diabetes complications. This is believed to be mainly due to poor adherence to treatment recommendations and diabetes self-management activities, but could also possibly be due to biological and behavioural causes that could predispose for both metabolic and affective disorders. The general risk of myocardial infarction is strongly dependent on age and sex, where men have an earlier disease onset compared to women. In the general population women are at much lower risk for ischemic heart disease mortality than men are. However, women with diabetes are at especially high risk for coronary heart disease, relatively more so than men with type 2 diabetes, meaning that the impact of diabetes on the risk of coronary death is significantly greater for women than men. The age- and gender-specific risk for myocardial infarction due to diabetes with coexistent depression has not previously been described. Data on all dispensed drug prescriptions in Sweden are available in the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register and all myocardial infarctions are registered in the Myocardial Infarction Statistics. These registers are population-based and have a total national coverage and high validity, which has been previously shown. Prescribed and dispensed antidiabetics and antidepressants were used as markers of disease. Our objective was to prospectively explore the gender- and age-specific risk of first myocardial infarction in people treated with antidiabetic and/or antidepressant drugs compared to participants with no pharmaceutical treatment for diabetes or depression in a nationwide register study.
Alcohol, Author Interviews, BMJ, Heart Disease, Women's Heart Health / 27.05.2015

Alexandra Gonçalves, MD, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow Cardiovascular Department Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA 02115MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Alexandra Gonçalves, MD, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow Cardiovascular Department Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA 02115 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Dr. Gonçalves: Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with alcoholic cardiomyopathy, while light to moderate drinking might have benefits in the risk of heart failure (HF). However, the cardiovascular mechanisms and the alcohol dosage associated with risks or potential benefits are uncertain. Furthermore, the variation in the toxic and protective effects of alcohol by sex remains controversial, as women may be more sensitive than men to the toxic effects of alcohol on cardiac function, developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy at a lower total lifetime dose of alcohol compared to men. In this study we assessed the associations between alcohol intake and cardiac structure and function by echocardiography, in elderly men and women in the large, community-based Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? Dr. Gonçalves: We studied 4466 participants (76±5 years and 60% women) with alcohol consumption ascertained, who underwent transthoracic echocardiography. Participants were classified into 4 categories based on self-reported alcohol intake: non-drinkers, drinkers of up to 7 drinks per week, ?7 to 14 and ? 14 drinks per week. In both genders, increasing alcohol intake was associated with larger left ventricular (LV) diastolic and systolic diameters and larger left atrial diameter. In men, increasing alcohol intake was associated with greater LV mass and higher E/E’ ratio. In women, increasing alcohol intake was associated with lower LV ejection fraction.
Author Interviews, Duke, Heart Disease, JACC, Women's Heart Health / 15.04.2015

Matthew E. Dupre, PhD Associate Professor of Medicine Department of Community and Family Medicine Department of Sociology Duke Clinical Research InstituteMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Matthew E. Dupre, PhD Associate Professor of Medicine Department of Community and Family Medicine Department of Sociology Duke Clinical Research Institute MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Dupre: The negative health consequences of divorce have been known for some time. However, we showed that lifetime exposure to divorce can have a lasting impact on ones’ cardiovascular health, particularly in women. This is a good example of why people going through a divorce need a good divorce lawyer chicago in order to keep their stress levels down and help their cardiovascular health. Results from our study showed that risks for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) were significantly higher in women who had one divorce, two or more divorces, and among the remarried compared with continuously married women after adjusting for multiple risk factors. Risks for AMI were elevated only in men with a history of two or more divorces relative to continuously married men. We were especially surprised to find that women who remarried had risks for AMI that were nearly equivalent to that of divorced women. Men who remarried had no significant risk for acute myocardial infarction. The results of this study provide strong evidence that cumulative exposure to divorce increases the risk of acute myocardial infarction in older adults. Also somewhat unexpected was that the associations remained largely unchanged after accounting for a variety socioeconomic, psychosocial, behavioral, and physiological factors. However, we lacked information on several factors that we suspect may have contributed to the risks related to divorce – such as elevated stress, anxiety, and the loss of social support; as well as possible changes is medication adherence or other prophylactic behaviors. MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Heart Disease, UCSD, Women's Heart Health / 17.03.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Raffaele Bugiardini, M.D. Professor of Cardiology University of Bologna Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bugiardini: Our analysis differs from previous reports of outcomes following STEMI because prior studies have not looked at sex differences in outcomes adjusted for time from symptom onset to hospital presentation and subsequent utilization of cardiac revascularization procedures, and rates of revascularization are typically significantly lower in women compared with men Our study is the first to look at the relationship between delays and outcomes.
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Menopause, University of Pittsburgh, Women's Heart Health / 06.03.2015

Dr. Rebecca Clark Thurston Ph.D Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Epidemiology, Psychology, and Clinical and Translational Science University of PittsburghMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Rebecca Clark Thurston Ph.D Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Epidemiology, Psychology, and Clinical and Translational Science University of Pittsburgh   MedicalResearch: What is the background for these studies? What are the main findings? Dr. Clark Thurston: The understanding of women’s cardiovascular disease and the role that reproductive factors play in women’s cardiovascular health is evolving. There are some studies showing links between menopausal hot flashes and cardiovascular disease risk in women. These studies help further refine this understanding. We showed in two separate studies that women who have hot flashes, particularly frequent hot flashes early in midlife, have poorer vascular health on certain indices.
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Heart Disease, Women's Heart Health / 03.03.2015

Saskia Haitjema MD PhD candidate Division Heart and Lung, Laboratory of Experimental Cardiology University Medical Center UtrechtMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Saskia Haitjema MD PhD candidate Division Heart and Lung, Laboratory of Experimental Cardiology University Medical Center Utrecht Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although cardiovascular diseases are often considered a disease of men, more women than men die each year of cardiovascular diseases. Sex-differences are increasingly being researched and acknowledged. For treatment and prognosis of coronary artery disease, however, many discrepancies exist between studies that investigated sex-differences. For example, it remains unclear whether the observed differences in the outcome after coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) are due to a different risk burden between men and women or whether female sex is an independent risk factor. In a group of 2553 patients followed up during a median of 2.5 years after CABG we found an increased risk for worse outcome in women versus men. We found a strong indication for female sex as an independent risk factor, but lacked power to definitively prove th
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Mayo Clinic, Women's Heart Health / 28.02.2015

dr-shannon-dunlayMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Shannon M. Dunlay, M.D. M.S. Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplantation Assistant Professor of Medicine and Health Care Policy and Research Mayo Clinic Rochester MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Dunlay: Loss of mobility and independence can complicate the care of patients with chronic conditions such as heart failure, and can degrade their quality of life.  However, we have a very poor understanding of the burden of disability in patients with heart failure and how it impacts outcomes.  What are the main findings?  In this study, patients with heart failure were asked whether they had difficulty performing activities of daily living (ADLs)—these include normal activities that most people do in daily life such as eating, bathing, dressing, and walking.  Most patients with heart failure reported having difficulty with at least one ADL at the beginning of the study, and over 1/3 had moderate or severe difficulty with activities of daily living.  Patients who were older, female and had other chronic conditions such as diabetes, dementia and obesity had more difficulty with activities of daily living.  Patients that reported more difficulty with ADLs (worse mobility) were more likely to die and be hospitalized over time.  Some patients had a decline in function over time, and this was also predictive of worse outcomes.
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Heart Disease, University of Pennsylvania, Women's Heart Health / 26.02.2015

Dawn Pedrotty, MD, PhD Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship University of PennsylvaniaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dawn Pedrotty, MD, PhD Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship University of Pennsylvania MedicalResearch: What is the background for this review? What are the main findings? Dr. Pedrotty: Heart failure (HF) is the most common cause for hospitalization among patients 65 years and older, affecting approximately 6 million Americans; at 40 years of age, American males and females have a one in five lifetime risk of developing heart failure. There are two distinct heart failure phenotypes: a syndrome with normal or near-normal left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) referred to as HF with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), and the phenotype associated with poor cardiac contractility or heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF). Risk factors associated with HFpEF include female gender, especially women with diabetes, higher body mass index, smoking, hypertension, concentric left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), and atrial fibrillation (AF). There has been a growing interest in the development of criteria for specific subsets of HFpEF, a syndromal disease where multiple cardiac and vascular abnormalities exist. One approach is to implement phenomapping, identifying phenotypically distinct HFpEF categories and developing a classification system to group together pathophysiologically similar individuals who may respond in a more homogeneous, predictable way to intervention. Another option would be to focus on a known physiologic differences which might shed light on pathologic mechanisms e.g. gender and the influences of obesity and atrial fibrillation.
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, General Medicine, Heart Disease, Women's Heart Health / 26.02.2015

Gregory YH Lip MD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow), DFM, FACC, FESC Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Birmingham, UK; Adjunct Professor of Cardiovascular Sciences, Thrombosis Research Unit, Aalborg University, Denmark; Visiting Professor of Haemostasis Thrombosis & Vascular Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, UK; Visiting Professor of Cardiology, University of Belgrade, Serbia Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences City Hospital Birmingham  England UKMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gregory YH Lip MD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow), DFM, FACC, FESC Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Cardiovascular Sciences, Thrombosis Research Unit, Aalborg University, Denmark; Aston Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences City Hospital Birmingham England UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Lip: Women with atrial fibrillation are at higher risk of stroke than men with atrial fibrillation. The reasons for this elevated risk remain unclear. The results from our worldwide study suggest that women are treated no differently to men in terms of anticoagulant therapy for stroke prevention. Thromboprophylaxis was, however, suboptimal in substantial proportions of men and women, with underuse in those at moderate-to-high risk of stroke and overuse in those at low risk.
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Heart Disease, Women's Heart Health / 26.02.2015

Judith Lichtman, PhD, MPH Associate Professor (with tenure) Chair, Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology Yale School of Public Health New Haven, CT 06520-803MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Judith Lichtman, PhD, MPH Associate Professor (with tenure) Chair, Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology Yale School of Public Health New Haven, CT 06520-803 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Lichtman: Heart disease in younger women (18-55 years of age) is relatively rare, and represents less than 5% of all heart disease in women; however, young women who present with a heart attack are twice as likely to die in the hospital as compared with a similarly aged man, and this excess mortality risk continues beyond the index event. Delays in seeking prompt care has been suggested as one potential cause for the excess mortality in young women. We were interested in learning about the recognition of symptoms, perceived risk of heart disease, decision-making process to seek medical care, and interactions with the healthcare system among young women who recently had a heart attack. We found that even though the majority of young women presented with chest pain, they also experienced many other symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, muscle pain, and weakness. They commonly attributed symptoms to non-cardiac conditions because they felt they did not experience the “Hollywood Heart Attack” that is commonly portrayed in the media. Interestingly, despite reporting a strong family history of cardiac disease, and having multiple risk factors, many of the women we spoke with did not perceive they were at risk for heart disease, and many were not working with their physicians to manage their risk factors. They were also concerned about being seen as a hypochondriac if they reported their symptoms. Finally, women reported that the healthcare system was not consistently responsive when they reported their symptoms.
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Heart Disease, Women's Heart Health / 24.02.2015

Jennifer L. Cook, MD FAHA Assistant Professor of Medicine | Heart Failure and Transplantation Medical Director Left Ventricular Assist Device Program Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC 29425MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jennifer L. Cook, MD FAHA Assistant Professor of Medicine | Heart Failure and Transplantation Medical Director Left Ventricular Assist Device Program Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC 29425 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Cook: Although the incidence of heart failure is similar in men and women, women are more likely to die from it.  Despite this fact a common misperception persists that men are at greater risk.  Although advanced therapies such as mechanical support are as effective in women as in men, women are less likely to receive mechanical support.  In clinical trials investigating mechanical support as a bridge to transplant less than 30% of patients were women.  In trials investigating mechanical support for patients ineligible for heart transplant even fewer were women, less than 20%.  . Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Cook: It has been shown that women with heart failure are more likely to remain under the care of a primary physician instead of being referred for specialized cardiovascular care.  The explanation for this pattern is not understood.  It is important to raise awareness and emphasize the high risk of heart failure mortality among women.
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Heart Disease, University of Michigan, Women's Heart Health / 24.02.2015

Claire Duvernoy, MD Chief, Cardiology Section VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System Professor of Medicine University of Michigan Health System Ann Arbor, MI MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Claire Duvernoy, MD Chief, Cardiology Section VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System Professor of Medicine University of Michigan Health System Ann Arbor, MI MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Duvernoy: We wanted to look at the indications and outcomes for women veterans undergoing cardiac catheterization procedures as compared with men veterans, given that we know that there are significant gender differences in the non-veteran population between women and men undergoing cardiac catheterization.