Women fare worse than men after severe heart attacks

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Women face a 20% increased risk of developing heart failure or dying within five years after their first severe heart attack compared with men, according to new US research published in Circulation (DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.048015). In addition, women were more likely than men to be older and have a more complicated medical history at the time of their heart attacks.

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Researchers analysed data on more than 45,000 patients (30.8% women) hospitalised for a first heart attack between 2002–2016 in Alberta, Canada. They focused on two types of heart attack: ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), and the less severe non-STEMI or NSTEMI, the latter being more common. Patients were followed for an average of 6.2 years.

Women were older and faced a variety of complications and more risk factors that may have put them at a greater risk for heart failure after a heart attack.

Regardless of whether their heart attacks were STEMI or NSTEMI, fewer women were prescribed medications such as beta blockers or cholesterol-lowering drugs. Women also had slightly lower rates of coronary revascularisation.

Based on these findings, study co-author Dr Padma Kaul (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada) co-director of the Canadian VIGOUR Centre, said the next step is to further examine if all patients are receiving the best care, particularly women, and find out where interventions can address oversights.

‘Menopause transition’ accelerates women’s cardiac risk

A new expert statement from the American Heart Association has reviewed current research indicating how a woman’s endocrine changes, body composition, cholesterol and vascular health during the years leading to menopause (or menopause transition), can increase the risk of developing heart disease.

Some of the common menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and night sweats, appear to be associated with worse cardiovascular disease risk factor levels. Depression and sleep disturbances, linked in some studies to an increased risk of heart disease, are also common among women during this time.

Physical activity and nutrition may play a role in the timing of menopause for all women. Women who drink little to moderate amounts of alcohol may have later onset of menopause, and those who smoke cigarettes are likely to start menopause about a year earlier than non-smokers, the report claims. The report was published in Circulation (DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000912)