A new study, published in the journal Radiology, reveals something fascinating about the functioning of the heart. Men and women will always have their differences, but scientists have found that these differences extend to the matters of the heart.
A team of experts at have found that male and female hearts age differently over time. This is probably the first time that these differences have been analyzed over time. For the study, researchers analysed MRI scans performed on nearly 3,000 older adults, ages 54 to 94, without pre-existing heart disease. Participants were followed between 2002 and 2012, at six hospitals across the US where each one of them underwent MRI testing at the beginning of the study and once more after a decade. The MRI scans provided researchers with 3-D images of the heart's interior and exterior, allowing them to determine the size and volume of the heart muscle.
It was found that the main chamber of the heart which is the left ventricle becomes smaller over time. As a result, less blood enters the heart and less gets pumped out to the rest of the body. The interesting bit is that while in men the heart muscle that encircles the chamber grows bigger and thicker with age, in women it retains its size or might shrink.
Previous studies have also tried to assess same using ultrasound but scientists believe that MRI scans provide detailed images and more reliable information.
"Thicker heart muscle and smaller heart chamber volume both portend heightened risk of age-related heart failure but the gender variations we observed mean men and women may develop the disease for different reasons," lead investigator John Eng, associate professor of radiological science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, pointed out.
It’s unclear why these differences occur but these findings may shed light on different forms of heart failure seen in men and women that may require the development of gender-specific treatments, the scientists said. Based on estimates, the prevalence of heart failure in India due to coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and rheumatic heart disease ranges from 1.3 to 4.6 million. It is a condition where the heart can’t pump enough blood through the body due to weak heart muscles. To repair the same, cardiologists may often prescribe medications to reduce the thickness of the muscles but given these results the same medication may not work for both men and women.
"Our results are a striking demonstration of the concept that heart disease may have different pathophysiology in men and women and of the need for tailored treatments that address such important biologic differences," said senior study author Joao Lima, professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.