It appears that the hearts of men and women are not different in the figurative sense only. A new study published in the journal Radiology suggests that the left ventricle of the pumping organ ages differently in the two.
The left ventricle is the main pumping chamber of the heart. Its ageing varies between the two sexes, as per the findings of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study. The findings might be used to support the concept of having different types of treatment for men and women.
The mass of the left ventricle is used as a predictor of events related to the heart. For instance, conditions like high BP cause the wall to thicken to be able to pump blood. Changes in its mass also happen with age.
The researchers evaluated the long-term modifications in the mass using a baseline cardiac MRI which was then compared with another one taken at a later date. The data were taken from 2,935 participants of many studies involving the left ventricle; it is to be noted that the people did not suffer from cardiovascular diseases at the beginning of the study.
“We had the opportunity to re-examine the same people after 10 years so that we could see what happened to their hearts after a decade,” said John Eng, M.D., from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “This is a more reliable way to assess left ventricular changes over time.”
When the two sexes were compared, a stark difference was noted: while the left ventricular volume decreased in both, men had an increased left ventricular mass and women had a slight decrease.
“The shape of the heart changes over time in both men and women, but the patterns of change are different,” Dr. Eng said. “Men’s hearts tend to get heavier and the amount of blood they hold is less, while women’s hearts don’t get heavier.”
What accounts for the difference in mass? Unfortunately, the researchers cannot as yet provide answers; more analysis has to be done. On the other hand, they speculate that the treatment for heart failure might need to be different for men and women.
“We’ve been talking a lot lately about personalized medicine, and here’s an example where perhaps men and women might have to be treated differently,” Dr. Eng said.