Women are generally told to lose weight, exercise, and improve their diet to prevent heart disease while men are advised to take statins, new research revealed on Saturday.

Previous studies have shown that women with cardiovascular disease are given less aggressive treatment compared with men.

The new study, presented at ESC Asia, a scientific congress organized by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and others in Singapore, only cemented the fact.

“Our study found that women are advised to lose weight, exercise, and improve their diet to avoid cardiovascular disease but men are prescribed lipid-lowering medication,” said study author Dr. Prima Wulandari of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, US.

“This is despite the fact that guideline recommendations to prevent heart disease are the same for men and women,” Wulandari added.

The new study used data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2017 to 2020.

Of 8,512 men and women aged 40 to 79 years and with no history of cardiovascular disease, 2,924 participants were at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease according to a validated risk calculator and therefore eligible to receive statins.

For the 2,924 participants, the researchers calculated the odds of men, compared with women, being prescribed statin therapy, and receiving advice to lose weight, exercise, reduce salt intake, and reduce fat or calorie consumption.

The analysis showed that men were 20 percent more likely to be prescribed statins compared with women.

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Compared with men, women were 27 percent more likely to be advised to lose weight, and 38 percent more likely to receive recommendations to exercise.

Regarding diet, women were 27 percent more often than men advised to reduce their salt intake, and 11 percent more frequently told to reduce their fat or calorie consumption.

“Following our analysis, we conducted a review of the literature to find possible explanations for the results. This demonstrated that a potential root of the discrepancy in advice is the misconception that women have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than men,” said Wulandari.

The ESC cardiovascular prevention guidelines recommend that adults of all ages should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity, aerobic physical activity a week, or an equivalent combination.

“Everyone should quit smoking. A healthy diet is recommended, emphasizing plant-based foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, and nuts. Salt should be limited to less than 5 grams per day, the guidelines said.