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Clin Cardiol. 2012 Mar;35(3):141-8. doi: 10.1002/clc.21966.

Myocardial ischemia in women: lessons from the NHLBI WISE study.

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Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute and Department of Clinical Public Health, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death for women. For almost 3 decades, more women than men have died from CVD, with the most recent annual statistics on mortality reporting that CVD accounted for 421 918 deaths among women in the United States. Although there have been significant declines in coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality for females, these reductions lag behind those seen in men. In addition, where there has been a decrease in mortality from CHD across all age groups over time in men, in the youngest women (age <55 years) there has been a notable increase in mortality from CHD. There are differences in the prevalence, symptoms, and pathophysiology of myocardial ischemia that occurs in women compared with men. In this paper, we review the pathophysiology and mechanisms of ischemic heart disease (IHD) in women, particularly focusing on what we have learned from the WISE study. We examine the sex-specific issues related to myocardial ischemia in women in terms of prevalence and prognosis, traditional and novel risk factors, diagnostic testing, as well as therapeutic management strategies for IHD.

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