New research part funded by the British Heart Foundation has highlighted stark inequalities between the treatment of men and women with heart attack and the effect this is having on survival.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, indicate that fewer of the thousands of women suffering a heart attack in the UK every year would die if they were treated in the same way as male patients.
Looking at data from Sweden’s extensive online cardiac registry, SWEDEHEART, researchers at the University of Leeds and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden determined that women had an excess mortality of up to three times higher than men’s in the year after having a heart attack.
Part of this, they believe, is down to the finding that women were on average less likely than men to receive the recommended treatments after a heart attack.
According to the data, women who experienced a complete blockage of the coronary artery were 34 percent less likely than men to receive procedures to clear blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the heart, including bypass surgery and stents.
They were also 24 percent less likely to be prescribed statins to prevent a second heart attack and 16 percent less likely to be given aspirin to prevent blood clots.
However, when all recommended treatments were given the survival gap between men and women narrowed significantly.
The analysis uses Swedish data, but the BHF notes that treatment guidelines for patients who have suffered from a heart attack are comparable across Europe.
Moreover, the researchers think that the situation for women in the UK is likely worse than in Sweden, because the country has one of the lowest mortality rates from heart attacks across the globe.
Previous research by the BHF has already shown that in the UK women are 50 percent more likely than men to be given an incorrect initial diagnosis and are less likely to get a pre-hospital ECG.
“Heart attacks are often seen as a male health issue, but more women die from coronary heart disease than breast cancer in the UK,” noted Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the charity.
“The findings from this research are concerning – women are dying because they are not receiving proven treatments to save lives after a heart attack.”