28 April 2021.

New research from our 45 and Up Study has revealed a gender gap in the use of medication after a heart attack or stroke, with women much less likely to be taking the preventive medication that could benefit their health. What’s going on?

Research snapshot

  • Women were 19% more likely than men to be using neither blood-pressure- or lipid-lowering medications three months after a heart attack or stroke
  • 12 months after hospital discharge, women were still lagging behind men, with a 14% greater likelihood of taking no CVD preventive medication at all
  • Researchers suggest appropriate preventive treatment of all people with CVD, including women, should be a priority for reducing CVD in Australia
New research shows Australian women may be missing out on essential medication after a heart or stroke.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for one in four deaths in Australia, and it’s estimated that someone is hospitalised for CVD every minute. But there is some good news – if you survive a heart attack or stroke, blood-pressure- and cholesterol-lowering medication can halve the risk of future CVD events occurring.

However, the latest research to come out of the 45 and Up Study has revealed major shortfalls in basic preventive medication use after hospitalisation. Researchers from the Australian National University used 45 and Up Study data to analyse over 8,000 Australian men and women who had been admitted to hospital for a heart attack or stroke. The average age of participants was 76 years, with men slightly more likely to be hospitalised for a heart attack than a stroke – and the reverse being true for women.

Three months after hospital discharge, women were 9% less likely than men to be using the advised blood-pressure- and lipid-lowering medications. Furthermore, women were 19% more likely not be taking any CVD preventive medication at all. Even 12 months on, women were still lagging behind in their medication use, with women 8% less likely to be using both medications, and 14% more likely to be using neither.

Exactly why is unclear, but researchers say it could be partly due to a combination of differences in prescribing practices for men and women – including a perception by physicians and patients that women are at lower risk of severe outcomes from CVD than men.

The study joins a growing body of Australian research that is using data from the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study to understand the differences in the way men and women are treated for heart disease and cancer.

Read the full study here.

The 45 and Up Study is the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s made possible thanks to 250,000 dedicated participants across NSW, who are kindly sharing their health information with us to help create a healthier Australia.

Find out how the Study is powering other research into mental health and cancer.

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on the study, sign up for the newsletter or explore more of the research here