Cardiovascular Risks Remain Higher For Women, African Americans

Susan Cheng MD Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA Interview with:
Susan Cheng MD
Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Boston, MA 02115


Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Cheng: We’ve known for some time that smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity all contribute to a person’s risk of being at risk for heart disease. The goal of our study was to look back over the last two decades and see how we’ve been doing in reducing the impact of these major cardiovascular risk factors on the actual risk for developing heart and vascular disease. We found that, not surprisingly, we’ve been doing generally better over time at lowering the overall impact of some risk factors such as smoking and high cholesterol. On the other hand, the impact of hypertension and diabetes has been high and has remained high over time.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Cheng: We were not necessarily expecting to see differences in time trends between men and women, or between blacks and whites. However, we found that the impact of all major risk factors and especially hypertension and diabetes, has remained significantly higher in women than men over time, even though this gender gap may be progressively narrowing. Importantly, the impact of the major risk factors has always been much higher in blacks than whites, and this racial gap may actually be widening over time. Across the study as a whole, we were also surprised to see that although the prevalence of smoking has dramatically decreased over the time, the actual risk associated with smoking has actually increased. This may be because people who continue to smoke tend to smoke more heavily or carry additional risk factors.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Cheng: Our results suggest that our ongoing efforts to prevent and manage major cardiovascular risk factors should target certain subgroups — such as women and blacks — in addition to the population at large. Our study also emphasizes the importance helping people who still smoke to quit what may well be an increasingly risky habit

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Cheng: Our study focused on trying to find and identify important trends in public health efforts at lowering cardiovascular risk by using knowledge about major risk factors that we’ve had available to us for some time. Our study didn’t have the chance to delve into details regarding why we these trends exist, and what should be done to improve these trends. So more work needs to be done in this area.


Temporal Trends in the Population Attributable Risk for Cardiovascular Disease: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study

Susan Cheng, Brian Claggett, Andrew W. Correia, Amil M. Shah, Deepak Gupta, Hicham Skali, Hanyu Ni, Wayne D. Rosamond, Gerardo Heiss, Aaron R. Folsom, Josef Coresh, and Scott D. Solomon

Circulation. 2014;CIRCULATIONAHA.113.008506published online before print August 11 2014, doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.008506


Last Updated on August 13, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD