Heart attack continues to be the leading cause of death in men. But women do suffer heart attacks, and when they do, they appear to get the shorter end of the stick. In fact, recently published research found women to be at a surprisingly higher risk for heart failure and heart attack death than men…
In fact, women face a 20 percent higher risk than men of developing heart failure or dying within five years after their first severe heart attack. Researchers are diving into why and what we can do about it…
Research proves that women are at greater risk
Researchers at the University of Alberta analyzed data from more than 45,000 patients hospitalized for a first heart attack between 2002 to 2016 in Alberta, Canada.
The study focused on two types of heart attacks: a severe, life-threatening heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and a less severe type called Non-STEMI, which is more common.
Patients were followed for an average of six years, and more than 30 percent of the group were women.
In addition to the elevated risk for heart failure among women, researchers found:
- A total of 24,737 patients had the less severe form of heart attack (NSTEMI); among this group, 34.3 percent were women and 65.7 percent were men.
- A total of 20,327 patients experienced STEMI, the more severe heart attack; among this group, 26.5 percent were women and 73.5 percent were men.
- The development of heart failure either in the hospital or after discharge remained higher for women than men for both types of heart attack, even after adjusting for certain confounders.
- Women had a higher unadjusted rate of death in the hospital than men in both the STEMI (9.4 percent vs. 4.5 percent) and NSTEMI (4.7 percent vs, 2.9 percent) groups. However, the gap narrowed considerably for NSTEMI after confounder adjustments.
- Women were more likely to be an average of 10 years older than men at the time of their heart attack, usually an average age of 72 years versus 61 for the men.
- Women also had more complicated medical histories at the time of their heart attacks, including high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, risk factors that may contribute to heart failure.
- Women were seen less frequently in the hospital by a cardiovascular specialist: 72.8 percent versus 84 percent for men.
- Regardless of whether their heart attacks were the severe or less severe type, fewer women were prescribed medications such as beta-blockers or cholesterol-lowering drugs. Women also had slightly lower rates of revascularization procedures to restore blood flow, such as surgical angioplasty.
What women need to know
According to Dr. Eugenia Gianos, director of the women’s heart program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, there are social as well as physiological factors that contribute to the higher death rate for women.
“Women, being care providers, tend to be more likely to put the health of their children, their families, before theirs and not be as aggressive about their own health in terms of seeing physicians and also in terms of taking the time for the more heart-healthy behaviors like exercise,” Gianos said.
At the same time, clinicians are less likely to look for early risk factors, since most women present symptoms of heart disease later in life. In the Canadian study, women were more likely on average to be 10 years older than men at the time of their first heart attack.
Editor’s Note: The results of a $100 million dollar study were recently presented to the American Heart Association. The verdict? Heart procedures don’t seem to help people with stable heart disease avoid heart attacks more than drugs and lifestyle changes do. So before you submit to any heart treatment, discover the truth you won’t find at your doctor’s office: Read this FREE report…