Female Heart Attack

Victims' Care Lacking

A study found that doctors often fail to prescribe aspirin, beta blockers and cholesterol-lowering drugs to women who suffer heart attacks, even though the medications have been shown to prevent further heart attacks or other heart trouble.

The finding adds to the evidence that many women are not adequately treated after heart attacks.

The researchers did not look at how often the drugs were offered to men. But other studies have shown that men and women alike are undertreated for heart disease, and women are treated even less aggressively than men.

Study co-author Michael Shlipak of the University of California at San Francisco said there could be a number of reasons for the findings. There is a lingering myth that heart disease is primarily a man's disease, he said, and both doctors and patients fear the side effects of some preventive drugs.

The study, in today's Annals of Internal Medicine, involved 2,763 postmenopausal women with heart disease. All had suffered heart attacks or chest pain caused by blocked arteries, or had undergone bypass surgery or angioplasty.

Researchers found that beta blockers, which slow the heart rate, were used by a third of the women who should have been taking them. Only half the women who qualified for cholesterol-lowering drugs took them. Even aspirin was underused: Although all of the heart attack survivors in the study should have been taking it, 80 percent did.

New Genetic Clue

To Alzheimer's Disease

A variation in a gene that is supposed to help the brain break down cholesterol may play a role in some cases of Alzheimer's disease, researchers said.

The gene, called CYP46, is involved in production of an enzyme that helps break down excess cholesterol in the brain. The research suggests that the variation might hamper production of the enzyme, resulting in a buildup in the brain of cholesterol and a gummy protein called beta amyloid.

The research, though preliminary, fits in with growing evidence that elevated cholesterol levels may raise the risk of Alzheimer's, researchers reported in the Archives of Neurology.

Late-onset Alzheimer's has been linked to another genetic variation in a different gene involved in helping transport cholesterol throughout the body. That variation is called APOE-4.

In the new study, patients with both the CYP46 and APOE-4 variants were almost 10 times more likely to develop the mind-robbing disease than those with neither variation. They also had the highest brain levels of beta amyloid.

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press