Women who are at risk for heart attack or stroke may find hope thanks to a new drug. Researchers from the University of Sydney published their study, which reveals the success of a cholesterol-lowering drug for women.

"Birds of a feather flock together" rings true for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and high cholesterol, which usually affect a person in pairs. By decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke in women, researchers will ultimately be able to lower their likelihood of death. Heart disease alone claims one million Americans’ lives each year and by 2020 will be the leading cause of death throughout the world, unless the risk can be lowered, according to the Heart Foundation.

"The finding is good news for women," the study’s co-author Tony Keech, and professor of medicine, cardiology and epidemiology at the University of Sydney, said in a press release. "The study shows that fenofibrate reduced the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, or having a stroke or other adverse cardiovascular event by 30 percent in women and 13 percent in men."

Researchers studied 3,657 women and 6,138 men with type 2 diabetes and evaluated their cardiovascular and stroke risk for five years. The impact type 2 diabetes had on lipoproteins and triglecerides, which are circulating fats in the blood, are what elevate the risk of heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes all increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, which is why it’s imperative to your health to lower risk as much as possible. However, when the cholesterol-lowering drug fenofibrate was given to women, their chances of dying from a heart attack or stroke was cut by 30 percent.

Fenofibrate works by triggering an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) better known as bad cholesterol, while at the same time it works to increase high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol. One out of every three adults has high LDL cholesterol and less than half of them receive treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in women, almost three times more common than breast cancer," the study's lead author Michael d'Emden, a professor at the Royal Brisbane Hospital, said in a press release. "Its symptoms are sometimes harder to diagnose in women and often the typical chest pain of a heart attack does not occur in people with diabetes. Therefore, better awareness among patients and their GPs (general practitioners) is vital. Predominant symptoms include breathlessness, sweating, nausea, fatigue or arm pain."

Tips for Lowering Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke:

  1. Exercising for 30 minutes each day can lower your risk of heart attack or stroke by 30 to 50 percent.
  2. Set weight-loss goals if you’re overweight or obese. By losing just five to 10 percent of weight improves cholesterol and lowers blood pressure.
  3. Following a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and lean meats has the power to lower your risk of heart disease by 24 percent.
  4. Don’t smoke; it will dramatically increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  5. Take your heart medication. More than 130,000 Americans die every year because they don’t take their heart medication properly because of side effects, cost, or forgetfulness.

Source: Keech AC, Saltevo J, Park K, Stuckey BGA, Best JD, Mann KP, et al. Favourable effects on fenofibrate on lipids and cardiovascular disease in women with type 2 diabetes: results from the Fenofibrate Intervention and Event Lowering in Diabetes (FIELD) study. Diabetologia. 2014.