Women Have a Higher Risk of Dying from Heart Attacks

Women generally have fewer heart attacks than men, but according to a new study, when they occur, women have a much greater chance of dying.

The study, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that women under 50 have the greatest risk, but that the women’s risk of death from a heart attack is higher than a man’s until age 75. Researchers examined 155,565 women and 229,313 men treated for heart attacks.

Scientists are not sure why exactly women have this increased risk, but they have found several contributing factors. Women are “more likely to have weakened heart muscle, dangerously low blood pressure and electrocardiograms” that make it difficult to diagnose the disease. Women also tend to have more complications when treated with blood thinning drugs. According to doctors involved in the study, women’s heart attacks were caused by large blood clots and spasms in arteries, whereas men’s heart attacks were mostly caused from blocked arteries.

The survival difference between men and women can be attributed to three significant reasons. Dr. Viola Vaccarino, an assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said, “Women with heart attacks were more likely than men to have other conditions that worsened their outlook, including diabetes and stroke, they tend to delay going to the hospital, and when they got there were less likely to be given prompt treatment for a heart attack, which includes aspirin, blood thinning drugs, and beta blockers.”

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. The American Heart Association statistics show that only 2.9% of men had fatal heart attacks compared to 6.1% of women.


New York Times - July 22, 1999

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