Breakthroughs for Women With Heart Disease

by Jennifer Reardon

Wendy Wang, MD, presents at the Connors Center Annual Research Symposium in November 2022.

Xiaowen “Wendy” Wang, MD, is contributing important knowledge about sex differences through her work as a First.In.Women fellow at the Connors Center. 

Passionate about helping women with heart failure achieve treatment options on par with men, Wang published a study in the journal Circulation in late 2022 examining sex differences.

Of the two types of heart failure affecting 6 million people across the U.S., nearly half have the type that is more common in women. The only therapy available for the female-dominant type has been water pills, which alleviate fluid buildup but do not address the underlying problem. The medical community has more knowledge of how to predict, prevent, and manage the form of heart failure that mainly affects men, including a few medications that effectively reduce hospitalization and death.

Recently, clinical trials—including one run by the Brigham—found success in treating both the female-dominant and male-dominant forms of heart failure using medications in a class of drugs originally developed for diabetes. Wang’s study analyzed sex differences for one of these drugs in a randomized group of 11,000 trial participants and concluded the drug is equally safe and effective in women and men. 

“This is exciting because we will now have therapies for the kind of heart failure that is more likely to affect women,” says Wang. “These are the first steps to having sex- and gender-specific treatment. We need to do more research to develop better understanding and teach about it in medical school to give women proper care.”