Women More Likely to Die After Heart Attack
Study Suggests Women Aren't Treated as Aggressively as Men Who Have Heart Attacks
WebMD News Archive
March 16, 2010 (Atlanta) -- Better heart treatment of women could help close
the gender gap in heart deaths. Women would be more likely to survive a heart
attack if they were treated more like men, French researchers say.
In a study of more than 3,500 people admitted to the hospital for a heart
attack, women were far less likely than men to get angiography to visualize
heart artery blockages or angioplasty to open up blocked arteries.
Women were about twice as likely to die within a month of having the heart
attack, according to the study, presented at the American College of
Cardiology's annual meeting.
The higher death rate in women "is related to the fact that they don't get
the same treatments as men," says Maria Rosa Costanzo, MD, an American Heart
Association spokeswoman who was not involved with the study.
"If women had the same access to procedures and medication as men, they
would derive the same benefit," says Costanzo, of Midwest Heart Specialists in
Study researcher Francois Schiele, MD, chief cardiologist at the University
Hospital of Besancon in France, says that when possible, "women should be
treated with all recommended strategies, including invasive ones."
Closing the Gender Gap
Costanzo tells WebMD that it's been known for some time that women fare
worse after a heart attack than men, but it's been unclear why. Some studies
point to biological differences such as women's smaller blood vessels that
raise the risk of complications during angioplasty, she says.
Also, women tend to be older and have poorer overall health when they have
heart attacks, and wait longer to seek medical care than men, research
But other studies suggest that women are undertreated, Costanzo says.
The new study attempted to level the playing ground by using statistical
techniques that took into account women's and men's different characteristics
and treatments when they had heart attacks.
The researchers analyzed data from a regional registry that included more
than 3,500 patients, about a third of whom were women, treated for a heart
attack between January 2006 and December 2007.
Women were, on average, nine years older than men, had more health problems,
and received fewer effective treatments for heart attack. They were nearly
twice as likely to die, both during the initial hospital stay and over the
When the analysis was adjusted to take into account the differences in the
women's ages, blood pressure, kidney function, and other characteristics as
well as the treatments they received, there was no difference in death rates,
either in the hospital or at 30 days.
"Once they compared apples to apples, it shows women get the same benefit
from [procedures to open blocked arteries] and medication as men," Costanzo
Drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Sanofi-Aventis helped fund the