Purpose: To understand when women's coronary heart disease (CHD) and CHD risk factors are recognized prior to first myocardial infarction (MI). Methods: Medical record review of the 10 years prior to incident MI among women with a confirmed incident MI between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 2001, to determine the timing of CHD diagnosis as well as assessment and treatment for risk factors. Results: One hundred fifty women had incident MIs during the study period. They made 8732 ambulatory visits and had 457 hospitalizations during the period of review (mean 9.1 years, range 6.2-10 years). Average age at incident MI was 74.7 years (SD 12.6, range 38.9-99.8 years). A CHD diagnosis prior to first MI was present in 52% (n = 78) of the women but was less common in those <70 years (p = 0.001). All but 3 women had one or more modifiable risk factors identified prior to their first MI. Treatment of recognized risk factors varied from 81% (antihypertension medications) to only 28% (drug therapy for abnormal lipid levels). Having a diagnosis of CHD was associated with an increased likelihood of having identified risk factors and receiving drug treatment for identified risk factors. Conclusions: Women with undiagnosed CHD (48%) and those with unrecognized or untreated risk factors for CHD, especially younger women, represent missed opportunities for prevention of cardiac events.
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