It’s believed that some doctors don’t take cardiovascular diseases as seriously in women as they do in men, as heart disease tends to be considered more of a "male problem".
In a new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, scientists looked at 180,368 patients from Sweden who had experienced a heart attack between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2013. During the 10-year span, the researchers found that women were three times more likely to die in the year after having a heart attack in comparison to their male counterparts due to lack of treatment.
It was also reported that women who had STEMI (total blockage of an artery) faced a 34 percent lower chance of receiving the recommended treatments, like stents, than men. And there’s more, women were also 24 percent less likely to be prescribed statins, which lower the chances of another heart attack, and 14 percent less likely to be given aspirin, which can stop blood clots.
“We need to work harder to shift the perception that heart attacks only affect a certain type of person,” said study co-author Chris Gale, of the University of Leeds, UK, in a statement.
The study was done using Sweden's online cardiac registry, SWEDEHEART, however, the researchers from the University of Leeds and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden believe their results likely apply throughout Europe, with the effects probably being worse in the UK.
Although around 124,000 men in the UK seek medical help due to heart attacks every year, 70,000 women do also. However, according to Gale “when we think of a heart attack patient, we see a middle-aged man who is overweight, has diabetes and smokes,” which can be a dangerous attitude for doctors to have. “Heart attacks affect the wider spectrum of the population – including women," he added.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the US heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, with it taking 289,758 female lives in 2013. This equates to about 1 in 4 female deaths.
The British Heart Foundation has previously shown that women are 50 percent more likely than men to get the wrong initial diagnosis, and less likely to receive a pre-hospital electrocardiogram (ECG), an important test that checks the heart's rhythm and electrical activity, which is essential for rapid diagnosis.
“The findings from this research are concerning – women are dying because they are not receiving proven treatments to save lives after a heart attack,” said Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.
“We urgently need to raise awareness of this issue as it’s something that can be easily changed. By simply ensuring more women receive the recommended treatments, we’ll be able to help more families avoid the heartbreak of losing a loved one to heart disease.”