The alarming results of a study undertaken in France highlighted serious gender differences in cardiac treatment of men and women. These shocking differences contribute to a higher death rate among women suffering a heart attack.
The French study(1) investigated more than 3,000 patients, 32% women, who had been treated for heart attacks over a two-year period.
Lead author Dr. Francois Schiele, Cardiology Chief at the University Hospital in Besancon, France, presented the results of the research at the American College of Cardiology’s 59th Annual Scientific Session in Atlanta last month. Dr. Schiele’s team found that, on average, the women studied:
- were nine years older than their male counterparts
- were in poorer health
- had been less effectively treated for heart attack
- were almost twice as likely as men to die as a result, whether in the hospital or at home during the month following their heart attack.
Researchers then compared the male and female patients to create matched pairs according to baseline characteristics. When they followed the treatment of the man and woman in each pair, the researchers found clear differences in treatment despite highly similar clinical characteristics.
Analysis of the data showed that:
- men were 72% more likely to receive clot-busting drugs than women
- men were also 57% more likely to receive a diagnostic angiogram, a diagnostic procedure in which dye is injected into the arteries of the heart so that doctors can identify blockages through X-ray imaging
- men were 24% more likely to have angioplasty to reopen a blocked artery once identified via angiography
- the death rate among women was 48% higher during their hospital stay compared to their male counterparts
Of course, getting appropriate treatment happens only when appropriate diagnosis happens first.
But women (especially younger women) with heart disease are far more likely than men to be misdiagnosed. Previous research(2) reported in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at more than 10,000 patients (48% women) who went to their hospital Emergency Departments with chest pain or other heart attack symptoms. Investigators found that one in every 50 people who had suffered a heart attack was misdiagnosed and sent home from hospital. But women younger than 55 were seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed than men of the same age.
The consequences of this were enormous: being sent away from the hospital during a cardiac event doubled the chances of dying.
January 31, 2016: The American Heart Association released its first ever scientific statement on women’s heart attacks, confirming that “compared to men, women tend to be undertreated”, and including this finding: “While the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort for both sexes, women are more likely to have atypical symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.”
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- How Does It Really Feel to Have a Heart Attack? Women Survivors Tell Their Stories
- Diagnosis – and Misdiagnosis – of Women’s Heart Disease
- 14 Reasons To Be Glad You’re A Man When You’re Having a Heart Attack
- Knowing and Going: Act Fast When Heart Attack Symptoms Hit
- His and Hers Heart Attacks
- Heart Disease: Not Just A Man’s Disease Anymore
- How Doctors Discovered That Women Have Heart Disease, Too
- Gender Differences in Heart Attack Treatment Contribute To Women’s Higher Death Rates
- How a Woman’s Heart Attack is Different From A Man’s
- Women Heart Attack Survivors Know Their Place