New York: Male and female hearts change over time in significantly different ways, says a new study.
The findings may shed light on different forms of heart failure seen in men and women that may require the development of gender-specific treatments, the scientists said.
"Our results are a striking demonstration of the concept that heart disease may have different pathophysiology in men and women and of the need for tailored treatments that address such important biologic differences," said senior study author Joao Lima, professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.
In both sexes, the main heart chamber, the left ventricle -- which fills with and then forces out blood -- gets smaller with time.
As a result, less blood enters the heart and less gets pumped out to the rest of the body.
But in men, the study revealed, the heart muscle that encircles the chamber grows bigger and thicker with age, while in women, it retains its size or gets somewhat smaller.
"Thicker heart muscle and smaller heart chamber volume both portend heightened risk of age-related heart failure but the gender variations we observed mean men and women may develop the disease for different reasons," lead investigator John Eng, associate professor of radiological science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, pointed out.
For the study, researchers analysed MRI scans performed on nearly 3,000 older adults, ages 54 to 94, without pre-existing heart disease.
Participants were followed between 2002 and 2012, at six hospitals across the US where each one of them underwent MRI testing at the beginning of the study and once more after a decade.
The MRI scans provided researchers with 3-D images of the heart's interior and exterior, allowing them to determine the size and volume of the heart muscle.
The study was published online in the journal Radiology