Study: Delayed Treatment for Severe Heart Attack Means Women Have Twice the Risk of Dying
Women hospitalized for heart attack are less likely than men to receive timely treatment and twice as likely to die if the heart attack is severe, new research shows. The study was published online December 8, 2008, in the journal Circulation.
The study of 78,000 adults (39% were women) hospitalized for heart attack found no difference in the overall risk of dying between women and men. However, women suffering the most severe type of heart attack, called a STEMI, were twice as likely as men to die: 10.2% of women compared with 5.5% of men died in the first 24 hours of hospitalization. A STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction) heart attack is caused by a complete blockage in an artery carrying oxygen-rich blood to the heart. If the blockage is not opened quickly, the heart muscle can suffer permanent damage, causing serious complications or even death.
Researchers also found that women did not get the treatment they needed as quickly as men. Women were less likely than men to receive timely treatment with clot busters and medications such as aspirin and beta-blockers. Women were also less like to be referred for procedures to restore blood flow, such as angioplasty, and those who did undergo angioplasty had to wait longer than men before the procedure was started. These treatment delays partially account for the higher risk of dying in women, especially within the first 24 hours of hospitalization. In people who survived 24 hours, there was little difference in the death rates between women and men.
This study reaffirms the importance of overcoming misperceptions about heart disease in women and the importance of timely treatment. To improve women's survival after serious heart attacks, health care providers need to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women in order to quickly provide proven life-saving treatments. Women also need to recognize the warning signs of a heart attack and learn what they can do to ensure they receive the right diagnosis and prompt treatment—it could be the difference between life and death.
Give yourself the best chance of surviving a heart attack by exploring HeartHealthyWomen.org and learning how to:
- Recognize heart attack warning signs in yourself or a loved one
- Prepare a heart attack action plan listing what to do and NOT to do
- Avoid a misdiagnosis by knowing which diagnostic tests are right for you
- Insist on the best care by knowing your treatment options
Source: Jneid H, Fonarow GC, Cannon CP, et al. Sex differences in medical care and early death after acute myocardial infarction. Circulation 2008. Epub ahead of print.