Heart attacks are twice as deadly for women, who are more likely than men to put off a call for help. “Women consistently present to the hospital later than men with myocardial infarction (MI) [heart attack], thus they tend to have larger complications from MI,” says Leslie Cho, MD, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiology Center.
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A study out of France compared how men and women present with heart attack, and how the situation is managed in hospitals. The findings: Women wait longer to get help, show up at the hospital with more serious cases, are more likely to have complications, spend more time in the hospital and, unfortunately, are twice as likely to die from heart attack.
Delaying a call for help is a serious mistake. But women tend to put others first. As nurturers, they’re more focused on the wellbeing of family and other loved ones. Also, women can overlook the signs of heart attack because the signs are subtler than the stereotypical chest pain that men often present with, Dr. Cho says. Women can experience shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, upper-back pressure or extreme fatigue.
The study by Guillaume Leurent, MD, of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Rennes, France, showed:
- The hospital mortality rate for women with heart attack is 9 percent vs. 4.4 percent for men.
- Women delay calling for help, taking 60 minutes vs. 44 minutes for men.
- Women were not treated as quickly in hospitals. The time between hospital admission and restoring blood flow to the heart was 45 minutes vs. 40 minutes for men.
- Women were less likely to be discharged with therapies like aspirin or beta-blockers. And, Dr. Cho says, “Women are less likely to be treated aggressively for risk factors such as high blood cholesterol levels and hypertension.”
Dr. Cho points out that women tend to be older when they have heart attacks (such was the case in the study), and so they have other health problems, too. “That’s why they tend to have poorer outcomes,” she says.
Ladies, the message here is this: Talk to your doctor if you believe you have heart attack symptoms. Don’t write off dizziness and fatigue as “no big deal.” And most of all, call for help immediately if you suspect heart attack.