Women die due to ‘unequal heart attack treatment’

Fewer women who have heart attacks would die if they got the same treatment as men, a study has found.

Female patients were up to three times more likely to die in the first year after suffering the medical emergency than men, said the research.

When women received all the treatments recommended, the gap in deaths between the sexes “decreased dramatically”.

The British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said women who suffered a STEMI, the most serious form of heart attack, were more than a third less likely than male patients to undergo bypass surgery or get stents.

Women were almost a quarter less likely to be given statins, and 16% less likely to be prescribed aspirin.

The charity said: “Critically, when women received all of the treatments recommended for patients who have suffered a heart attack, the gap in excess mortality between the sexes decreased dramatically.”

Researchers at the University of Leeds and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden looked at 180,368 patients who suffered a heart attack over a 10-year period to 2013.

Professor Chris Gale, from the University of Leeds, who co-wrote the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, said the typical view of a heart attack patient is not always correct.

Women are less likely to have a heart bypass operation

Image: Women are less likely to have a heart bypass operation

He said: “We need to work harder to shift the perception that heart attacks only affect a certain type of person. Typically, when we think of a heart attack patient, we see a middle-aged man who is overweight, has diabetes and smokes.

“This is not always the case – heart attacks affect the wider spectrum of the population, including women.

“The findings from this study suggest that there are clear and simple ways to improve the outcomes of women who have a heart attack – we must ensure equal provision of evidence-based treatments for women.”

He added that although the study focused on Sweden and showed a disparity, the situation in the UK could be worse.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said more women die from coronary heart disease than breast cancer in the UK.

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He added: “The findings from this research are concerning – women are dying because they are not receiving proven treatments to save life after a heart attack.

“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.”