WOMEN with histories of coronary heart disease are being under-prescribed medications and are often not monitored for major risk factors, a new study shows.
Assumptions that the disease mostly affects older men persist, researchers from across Australia - including Bendigo - have found.
Women and people aged less than 45 years are less likely to be prescribed recommended medications like antiplatelet agents, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and statins, experts have discovered after analysing 130,926 GP patient records.
It comes weeks after coronary heart disease was revealed to be the biggest killer of women in Bendigo in the five years to 2017.
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The disease accounted for 11.6 per cent of female deaths - or 265 people - in the greater Bendigo area,the Australian Institute of Health and Welbeing data shows.
The same disease also killed the most men, with 13.2 per cent of deaths locally - or 288 people.
Women are "invisible when it comes to heart disease", the National Heart Foundation's director of prevention Julie Anne Mitchell said.
"Australian research highlights that total healthcare spending on women with heart disease is less than half of that spent on men, and this latest research shows yet again why we need to redress the imbalance," she said.
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Despite "remarkable success" reducing Australia's death rates over 20 or 30 years, about 20,000 men and women still die from coronary heart disease, La Trobe University epidemiologist Rachel Huxley said.
"What's more, heart disease is is responsible for about 160,000 hospitalisations each year. That's a tremendous burden on our healthcare system," she said.
Professor Huxley led the latest research efforts on coronary heart disease and said it was not all bad news.
Despite differences in how women are managed, they are more likely to achieve treatment targets than men, she said.
No-one can say for sure why that is, Professor Huxley said. It could be that some women react better to certain medications.
But she suspected something else was happening.
"We only looked at what the doctor prescribed. We don't know if people filled those prescription or took the drugs," Professor Huxley said.
"It could be that women are better at complying with their doctors' recommendations ... we just don't know the answer."
Her study involved Bendigo-based La Trobe statistician George Mnatzagian, as well as researchers based at the university's Melbourne Campus, the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Oxford and Westmead Hospital.
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