Women are more likely to die in the first year after this event than men
Most people tend to associate heart attacks with men.
But while it’s true that men make up around two-thirds of hospitalized heart attack patients, a new study shows that significantly more women die within the first year of suffering a heart attack than men with similar case histories.
Researchers found no notable gender difference when looking five years out, but when examining just the first year after a heart attack, women were 1.5 times more likely to die than men.
Study co-author Dr. Georg Schmidt believes psychological and societal reasons may play a role in this. “In everyday life, women often face different expectations than men,” he said in a press release. “They are expected to start ‘functioning’ again sooner, which means that they are subject to bigger stresses.”
Previous studies indicate that while women have fewer heart attacks overall, they have a higher incidence of death from the attacks or their aftereffects. Part of the reason may be that they are, on average, 10 years older than men when experiencing their first heart attack. Women also experience different symptoms from men leading up to the attack.
“Women have atypical symptoms when it comes to chest pain or heart attack, so the symptoms are often overlooked,” says Dr. Kartik Mehta, a cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “This possesses a greater threat to their future health. Awareness and understanding of symptoms associated with heart disease can have beneficial long-term impact.”
Like men, according to the American Heart Association, chest pain is the most typical symptom for women. But women may experience other symptoms that are less common in men, including:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Dr. Mehta says that risk factor modification is the most important thing women can do to avoid a heart attack.
“It is important to have an annual physical and have blood pressure and cholesterol checked and treated, if needed,” he says. “Good blood sugar control is also important. Maintain a healthy lifestyle with a moderate amount of activity and avoid smoking. And if you’re planning to start an exercise routine, consult with your health care provider prior to initiating.”
Find out your risk for heart disease by taking our simple and easy Heart Risk Assessment.
About the Author
Eric Alvin, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. He has more than 20 years of experience in both internal and external health care communications, media relations, and creating online and print marketing content. He has a great love of classic cinema and is a big fan of Turner Classic Movies.