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Women More Likely To Die From First Heart Attack

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It is widely known that men suffer from heart attacks the most. A new report, however, says that women are more likely to die within a year after their first heart attack.

The report sheds light in the importance of educating women that signs and symptoms of heart attack actually differ among males and females. About 26 percent of women die within a year of having their first heart attack compared to 19 percent in men.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI) is the leading cause of death among women in the United States. A total of 292,188 women died of the condition in 2009.

Though there is around the same number of deaths related to heart attacks among both men and women each year, only 54 percent of women are aware that heart disease is the No. 1 killer. An estimated 64 percent of women who die of heart attack have no previous symptoms.

Differences In Causes, Symptoms And Outcomes

Men and women differ in many ways in terms of cardiovascular disease. A woman's heart attack may have a different cause, symptoms and outcomes compared to men, researchers from the American Heart Association have noted [pdf] in the journal Circulation.

The main cause of heart attacks in both men and women is the blockage of the main arteries. Women experience less severe blockages than men but they are at a higher risk of having damaged coronary artery blood vessels. These all contribute to diminished blood flow to the heart muscle.

Depressed women are also more prone to suffering from a heart attack. Experts say that this may be linked to having an unhealthy lifestyle.

In women, they might feel uncommon symptoms that are often not indicative of an impending heart attack. Though both men and women often feel chest pain, women may manifest symptoms of nausea, weakness, a feeling of dread, shortness of breath, and back, arm, neck or jaw pain.

Women who survive a heart attack are at a higher risk of complications while in the hospital. Such complications include bleeding, heart failure and shock. Since women are more likely to suffer from hypertension and type 2 diabetes, which are potent predisposing factors to cardiovascular disease, they are at a higher risk of a heart attack.

Women Wait Longer To Get Treated

"Despite stunning improvements in cardiovascular deaths over the last decade, women still fare worse than men and heart disease in women remains underdiagnosed, and undertreated, especially among African-American women," Dr. Laxmi Mehta, a noninvasive cardiologist and director of the Women's Cardiovascular Health Program at Ohio State University, said.

According to the report, women are more likely to delay treatment. When they analyzed the median delay of seeking medical help between men and women, they have reported that women take about 54 hours compared to 16 hours in men.

"Women are undertreated with guideline-based recommendations, leading to worse outcomes and increased rates of readmission, reinfarction, and deaths in the first year after MI," the researchers concluded in the study.

Photo: Joe Szilagyi | Flickr 

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