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Heart Disease Health Center

Women's Chest Pain Treatments Getting Better

More Doctors Are Giving Women and Men Equal Treatment
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WebMD Health News

Feb. 18, 2005 -- Women having chest pain are being prescribed the right medications, just as men are. It's a big improvement over past years, researchers say.

At hospital discharge, women in the study were prescribed aspirin as a blood thinner, beta-blockers to protect the heart against lack of oxygen, and a statin drug to lower cholesterol -- and they got them just as frequently as men did, reports researcher Shu-fen Wung, PhD, a nursing professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Wung is presenting her study at the Second International Conference on Women, Heart Disease, and Stroke being held in Orlando, Fla., this week.

Current treatment guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recommend that patients having chest pain related to a lack of oxygen to the heart or who may be having a heart attack, be treated with aspirin, beta-blockers, and statin drugs.

However, past studies have shown that women's treatment for heart disease symptoms was not as optimal as the treatment men got, she explains. Only a handful of researchers have looked specifically at doctors' practices in following AHA and ACC guidelines.

Today's study shows that things have changed. Women are indeed getting better care these days -- at least in the two teaching hospitals where her study took place. "Significant progress has been made with more physicians/nurse practitioners following practice guidelines," Wung says, in a news release.

Heart Attack Study

Her study involved 102 men and 29 women discharged from two hospitals after having chest pain related to the heart. Researchers tracked exactly what each patient was prescribed. They followed up with phone calls to each patient six months later, finding:

  • Aspirin was recommended to 80% of men and 80% of women.
  • Beta-blockers were prescribed to 86% of men and 86% of women.
  • Statin drugs were prescribed to 79% of women, significantly more than the 47% of men who got statins.

Use of beta-blockers had a significant affect on death rates six months later, Wung notes.

While her study shows much good news, women's heart treatment is still not optimal. Nearly 20% of women did not get any prescription at all, says Wung.

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