Women 55 years and younger have about twice the risk of death from a heart attack than similarly aged men. Our VIRGO group has been funded by the National Institutes of Health to examine predictors of a broad range of early and 1-year outcomes for young women with heart attacks and to examine such questions as: Do women get the same quality of care as men? Despite perceptions that young women are protected from heart disease, it is one of the leading causes of death in women 55 years and younger, accounting for more than 8,000 deaths annually in the United States. Young women with heart attacks have about twice the risk of dying in the hospital than similarly aged men. Among those who survive, their subsequent risk of death is about 50% higher than men. Unfortunately, little research effort has been directed toward understanding heart disease in this group.
We received funding by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to support a study of 2,000 young women with heart attacks (and 1,000 men as a comparison group). We examined predictors of a broad range of early and 1-year outcomes including demographic, lifestyle, psychosocial, clinical, physical, biochemical and hormonal characteristics as well as genetic risk factors and processes of care. This was a large initiative that required the enrollment of patients with heart attacks from more than 100 institutions nationwide.
VIRGO bridged disciplines from basic biology to clinical sciences to psychology and health services research. The multidisciplinary research team from Yale University School of Medicine, in collaboration with leading investigators from other institutions, addressed questions ranging from genetics to clinical care and outcomes, including:
- How are outcomes of women different from those of men?
- What are the genetic, demographic, psychosocial, and behavioral factors that contribute to premature heart disease in women?
- How do delays in clinical presentation and treatment affect the risk and outcomes of women?
- Do women get the same quality of care as men?
The investigators worked closely with the American Heart Association to disseminate study findings through various channels, including online at the American Heart Association's website, www.goredforwomen.org, and also distributed information through the American College of Cardiology.