The heart ages differently for women and men. And this suggests a possible need for gender-specific treatments, according to a study published Oct. 20 in the journal Radiology.
“The shape of the heart changes over time in both men and women, but the patterns of change are different. Men’s hearts tend to get heavier and the amount of blood they hold is less, while women’s hearts don’t get heavier,” study author Dr. John Eng, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a journal news release.
Researchers used MRIs to examine the hearts of nearly 3,000 people without heart disease in the United States. The participants underwent another MRI about 10 years later, when they were aged 54 to 94 years.
Both women and men had decreases in the volume of their left ventricle, the chamber of the heart that pumps blood throughout the body. However, the mass of the left ventricle increased in men and decreased slightly in women.
Increased mass can occur when the ventricle walls thicken from having to work harder to pump blood due to high blood pressure or other conditions, the researchers explained.
Further research is needed to learn more about these gender differences, but the findings suggest that varying treatment approaches may be needed for men and women with heart disease.
“We’ve been talking a lot lately about personalized medicine, and here’s an example where perhaps men and women might have to be treated differently,” Eng said.
The researchers also found that increased left ventricular mass was associated with higher blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), an estimate of body fat based on weight and height.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health explains how to reduce heart risks.