Heart attacks: Difference between the sexes costs many women their lives

Heart attacks: Difference between the sexes costs many women their lives

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Many women die unnecessarily from heart attacks

Significant inequalities in the perception, diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks cause many women in the UK to die unnecessarily every day. The charity “British Heart Foundation” reports. German health experts have also pointed out the gender differences in heart attacks.

According to a report from the British Heart Foundation (BHF), research shows that an estimated 8,200 women in England and Wales have died over ten years because they have not been treated as men. According to the BHF, more human lives are at risk, as research shows that women who suffer from heart attack symptoms are slow to seek help. The charity wants to put an end to the perception that heart attack is a male disease and encourages women to better understand their risk of heart attack and its symptoms.

Heart attacks have never been so treatable

Dr. BHF's Sonya Babu-Narayan said, “Heart attacks have never been more treatable. Nevertheless, women die unnecessarily because heart attacks are often seen as a male disease and women do not receive the same standard of treatment as men. ”The BHF lists the various problems:

Ignorance: Women are often reluctant to seek medical help, which can reduce their chances of survival. A global systematic review found that the average delay between onset of symptoms and arrival at the hospital was between 1 hour 24 minutes and 3 hours 30 minutes for men and between 1 hour 48 minutes and 7 hours 12 minutes for women.

Misdiagnosis: Research has shown that women are 50 percent more likely to get a wrong initial diagnosis if they have a heart attack. Both men and women who were initially misdiagnosed have a 70 percent higher risk of death.

Incorrect handling: It has been estimated that over 8,200 heart attack deaths among women in England and Wales could have been prevented over ten years if they had been given the same standard of care as men. A study found that women are less likely to receive standard treatments such as bypass surgery and stents.

Increased risk: Risk factors for heart disease are often more lethal for women. Smoking increases the risk of myocardial infarction compared to men by double, hypertension by 80 percent and type 2 diabetes by 50 percent.

Poor aftercare: Women often have poorer aftercare after a heart attack. A BHF-funded study found that women in England and Wales were 2.7% less likely to get statins and 7.4% less likely to get beta blockers when leaving the hospital, although they have been shown to have a risk of subsequent heart attack or Lower stroke.

Recognize heart attack symptoms

"This problem is not only seen in the UK - studies around the world have also shown gender gaps in treatment," said Chris Gale, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Leeds and lead author of some of the studies cited. “The differences in care are very small on their own, but when we look at it across the UK population, it adds up to a significant loss of life. We can do better. "

In the UK, twice as many women die from coronary artery disease - the cause of most heart attacks - than breast cancer. According to Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, there must be a change in public perception of women and heart attacks to better close the gender gap. "The assumption that women are not at risk of heart attack is wrong and has proven to be fatal," said the doctor.

“We want to empower women to better understand their risk and understand the many symptoms of a heart attack. When someone has a heart attack, every second counts. ”The sooner people recognize their symptoms and call emergency services, the better their chances of recovery.
[GList slug = ”5 signs of a heart attack”]

Other alarm signs

The German Heart Foundation has also pointed out that heart attacks are by no means an exclusive matter for men and explains that an infarction often signals itself to women with other alarm signals. In addition to the classic signs such as chest pain, which can radiate to different parts of the body (e.g. in the arms, upper abdomen, between the shoulder blades in the back or in the neck and jaw), heart attacks are more common in women compared to men Noticeable with so-called unspecific symptoms - for example with severe shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting or with symptoms in the upper abdomen. "It is therefore important to think of a heart attack, especially when such signs occur with a level of violence not previously known," the experts write.

Another peculiarity concerns symptoms in the breast area in women. Instead of severe pain, it is much more often a feeling of pressure or tightness compared to men, but it must be taken at least as seriously. “Because every heart attack - regardless of the type of complaint - can cause a sudden cardiac arrest at any time and without further notice. If there is the slightest indication of a heart attack, dial 112 immediately, ”says the heart foundation. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • British Heart Foundation: Heart attack gender gap is costing women's lives, (access: 30.09.2019), British Heart Foundation
  • Deutsche Herzstiftung: Heart attack: What do women need to know? (Accessed: September 30, 2019), Deutsche Herzstiftung

Video: Heart Attack Risk Assessment 1 (September 2022).


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