A new study, released in October 2017, compared men and women who have experienced a heart attack and found that women are at a higher risk of death in the first year after an initial heart attack. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, “435,000 women in the United States have heart attacks annually – 83,000 are under the age of 65, while only 35,000 are under the age of 55.”
Researchers used this study to learn more about factors that contribute to an increased number of deaths in women in the first year following an initial heart attack. Factors include age, hypertension, diabetes, smoking status, various measures of heart function, and treatments and medications they have taken. Researchers studied 802 men and women with the same factors and found that in the first year after a heart attack, “women were 60 percent more likely to die than their male counterparts.”
Using the data of the “ISAR-RISK” and “ART” studies, comprised of 4,100 participants, contributing researcher Dr. Romy Ubrich said, “We wanted to find out whether the mortality risk of female patients after a heart attack is still higher after adjusting for those factors… If we look at the full five-year investigation period after the heart attack, there are no unusually large gender-specific differences if we adjust for factors such as age, accompanying conditions and type of treatment.”
Ubrich added that the researchers were actually surprised to learn the results of their study. She said, “We were surprised by the data for the first 365 days after the event: During that time, women were 1.5 times as likely to die as men.”
“We should follow female patients more carefully. As doctors, we should ask our patients about their concerns, and look for opportunities for support beyond drugs and other standard treatments,” said Dr. Georg Schmidt, professor of cardiology at the Technical University of Munich in Germany.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that there must be a physiological or social factor that might be contributing to a higher mortality rate for women in the first year following an initial heart attack. More research would need to be conducted in order to find a more exact cause.
“In everyday life, women often face different expectations after a heart attack than men. They are expected to start ‘functioning’ again sooner, which means that they are subject to bigger stresses. Our study shows that it is important to pay close attention to female patients especially in the first year after the event,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt also added, “Family doctors have to be keenly aware of the social situation of these women and try to provide support. Particularly when there are signs of depression, family doctors need to be especially alert. If such indications are observed, it is important to refer the patients quickly to specialists so that they can start working with a therapist as soon as possible if needed.”
Not only do women need to be monitored more closely in that first year after a heart attack, they also need to be provided with the necessary support.
You can read the full study here.
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