Cardiovascular Disease in Young Women: A Population at Risk


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Abstract

Ischemic heart disease (IHD) is a leading cause of morbidity in the United States and worldwide. In women, it is the leading cause of death in all age groups except young women who rarely have clinically evident disease. However, when young women less than age 50 develop IHD, they are at high risk for mortality. This may be due in part to delay in diagnosis or less aggressive treatment. Young women may be less aggressively treated with medical therapies and percutaneous or surgical interventions despite studies that have shown benefit in women as well as men. Young women are an especially important population to target for treatment and study since prevention of IHD during this stage of life can have great personal and societal health consequences. Epidemiological studies, including the INTERHEART study, have identified risk factors including hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, smoking, and sedentary lifestyle that explain much of IHD in women. Several factors, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and tobacco use, are stronger predictors of IHD in young women as compared with older women. Healthcare practitioners who encounter young women should aggressively treat risk factors, maintain an appropriate index of suspicion for IHD, and treat acute coronary syndromes promptly and intensively to reduce the burden of IHD in young women.

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