Women present heart problems differently than men, and since heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women, research on better diagnosis and treatment is vital. Researching conditions such as vascular stiffness, heart valve disease during pregnancy, heart attacks that occur without obstructed coronary arteries, and autoimmune diseases and how they specifically affect the hearts of women will help develop new preventions and treatments.
One preventive treatment might surprise you, and give you yet another reason to get outside. Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for heart attacks in women, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, strokes and the conditions associated with having cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Does taking more vitamin D reduce those risks? Johns Hopkins researchers are tackling topics like this and how they specifically affect women’s heart health.
Johns Hopkins researchers are participating in a multiyear study funded by the American Heart Association that focuses on a specific type of heart disease called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) and how it affects women’s hearts. The ejection fraction is a measurement that determines how well your heart pumps blood from the heart’s left ventricle with each beat. About half of patients develop heart failure (accumulation of fluid in the lungs and body) despite having apparently normal pumping function of the left ventricle (ejection fraction of over 50 percent). Studies from Johns Hopkins researchers suggest that the biochemical pathways — a linked series of chemical reactions occurring within a cell — leading to HFpEF are influenced by estrogen in women. A loss of estrogen during menopause may increase the likelihood of HFpEF.
The study’s goal is to investigate the heart, vascular function and skeletal muscle function in men and women with HFpEF. Further understanding of these abnormalities may lead to better personalized treatment of postmenopausal women with HFpEF, as well as men with the condition. This will also help doctors create a personalized approach to treatment and prevention.
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