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Women are 20% more likely to die from a heart attack than men, says study

Published on:1 December 2020, 16:58pm IST
Increased smoking, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle are the catalysts that can cause heart attacks in women
Team Health Shots
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Don’t ignore your heart health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

We have a question for you. When was the last time you went to the doctor to get your heart health analyzed? You must be thinking that really isn’t required at such a young age. But ladies if you are 35 and above then there is no harm in getting yourself checked as the kind of stressful lifestyle we lead, cardiovascular problems can very well be a possibility. 

What is more bothersome is that a new study published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation says women are more likely to die from a heart attack than men.

Women face a 20% increased risk of developing heart failure, the study noted 

The study has noted that women can develop heart issues or can die within five years after their first severe heart attack as compared to men.

Previous research looking at sex differences in heart health has often focused on recurrent heart attacks or death. However, the differences in vulnerability to heart failure between men and women after heart attack remain unclear.

To study this gap, researchers analyzed data on more than 45,000 patients (30.8%) hospitalized for a first heart attack between 2002-2016 in Alberta, Canada. They focused on two types of a heart attack: a severe, life-threatening heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), and a less severe type called Non-STEMI or NSTEMI, the latter of which is more common. Patients were followed for an average of 6.2 years.

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Women were older and faced a variety of complications and more risk factors that may have put them at a greater risk for heart failure after a heart attack.

These are some important finding by the researchers:

– A total of 24,737 patients had a less severe form of heart attack (NSTEMI). Among this group, 34.3% were women and 65.7% were men.

– A total of 20,327 patients experienced STEMI, the more severe heart attack. aAong this group, 26.5% were women and 73.5% 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% vs. 4.5%) and NSTEMI (4.7% vs 2.9%) 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% versus 84% 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.

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“Identifying when and how women may be at higher risk for heart failure after a heart attack can help providers develop more effective approaches for prevention,” said lead study author Justin A. Ezekowitz, M.B.B.Ch., M.Sc., a cardiologist and co-director of the Canadian VIGOUR Centre at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

“Better adherence to reducing cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure, getting more exercise, eating a healthy diet and stopping smoking, combined with recognition of these problems earlier in life would save thousands of lives of women —and men.”

Based on these findings, study co-author Padma Kaul, PhD, co-director of the Canadian VIGOUR Centre, said the next step is to further examine if all patients are receiving the best care, particularly women, and where interventions can address oversights.

“Close enough is not good enough,” said Kaul, who is also the Sex and Gender Science Chair from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “There are gaps across diagnosis, access, quality of care, and follow-up for all patients, so we need to be vigilant, pay attention to our own biases, and to those most vulnerable to ensure that we have done everything possible in providing the best treatment.” 

(With inputs from ANI)

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