Women are twice as likely to die after a heart attack than men and may need closer monitoring, experts have warned.
New research presented at the Heart Failure 2023 conference found that 11.8 per cent of women die within 30 days of a heart attack compared to just 4.6 per cent of men.
Likewise, nearly a third of women studied had died within five years of a heart attack compared to 19.8 per cent of men.
Researchers at the Hospital Garcia de Orta, in Almada, Portugal, who carried out the study said they were unsure what was driving the gender effect, after ruling out possible reasons, such as other underlying health conditions or men using more medication to control blood pressure or cholesterol.
Perception it is male condition
Charities such as the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have warned that there is still a perception that heart attack – also known as myocardial infarction – is a male condition meaning many women, and even doctors, do not recognise symptoms.
“Women of all ages who experience a myocardial infarction are at particularly high risk of a poor prognosis,” said study author Dr Mariana Martinho, of Hospital Garcia de Orta.
“These women need regular monitoring after their heart event, with strict control of blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes, and referral to cardiac rehabilitation.
“Smoking levels are rising in young women and this should be tackled, along with promoting physical activity and healthy living.”
A heart attack is a serious medical emergency that happens when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.
Did not receive equal treatment
Around 1.4 million people alive in Britain have survived a heart attack, and 100,000 people are admitted to hospital with the condition each year, including 35,000 women.
Recent BHF-funded research estimated that more than 8,200 women in England and Wales died over a 10-year period because they did not receive equal treatment to men.
The study found women were less likely to receive standard treatments, including bypass surgery and stents.
Women also often delay seeking medical help, which can reduce their chance of survival and are 50 per cent more likely than men to receive a wrong diagnosis.
The latest study looked at the records of 884 patients who were admitted to the hospital within 48 hours of symptom onset, between 2010 and 2015, and who survived their initial attack
Researchers also conducted a further analysis in which they matched 435 men and women according to risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking.
When everything was equal, they found that 11.3 per cent of women died within 30 days compared with three per cent of men. At five years, one-third of women had died compared with 15.8 per cent of men.
“Women had a two to three times higher likelihood of adverse outcomes than men in the short and long term even after adjusting for other conditions and despite receiving treatment within the same timeframe as men,” added Dr Martinho.
“The findings are another reminder of the need for greater awareness of the risks of heart disease in women.
“More research is required to understand why there is gender disparity in prognosis after myocardial infarction so that steps can be taken to close the gap in outcomes.”
‘Women at a disadvantage’
Commenting on the research, Regina Giblin, senior cardiac nurse at the BHF, said: “This study is yet more evidence that women continue to be at a disadvantage when it comes to their diagnosis, treatment, and aftercare for a heart attack.
“Previous research has shown that women are not seen as being at risk of heart attacks, more likely to be misdiagnosed, and less likely to receive optimal treatment.
“It’s vital that we tackle the fundamental problems – to understand sex-specific risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, to improve participation of women in clinical trials so the evidence generated is equally applicable to them, and to guard against the unconscious biases which lead to women with heart disease receiving worse care than men.”
The Heart Failure 2023 conference is organised by the European Society of Cardiology.