Heart attacks in women often have different causes and symptoms than those in men, and they’re deadlier, too.
That’s the premise of a scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) that hopes to raise awareness about key differences in heart attack indicators and treatment in women.
Women who don’t recognize their heart attack symptoms won’t seek needed medical care, said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“These delays in care contribute to higher mortality rates experienced by women, particularly younger women,” he said.
Worldwide, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women. Since 1984 in the United States, heart attack survival has improved for women. But the heart death rates among women still outpace heart deaths in men, according to the AHA statement.
The new statement reviews current scientific evidence, points out gaps in knowledge and discusses the need for more research in women, said Dr. Laxmi Mehta. She is chair of the statement writing group and director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program at Ohio State University Medical Center.
Mehta knows firsthand the dangers that heart disease pose to women. “I was inspired to write this [statement] as both my grandmothers died from heart attacks at age 60 and had presented with atypical [not typical] symptoms,” she said.
The statement is published in the Jan. 25 online edition of the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Among the highlights:
- Plaque buildup in the arteries — a frequent cause of heart attack — can differ between the sexes. Women are less likely to need stenting to open a blocked artery, but they still suffer blood vessel damage that reduces blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack.
- High blood pressure is a stronger risk factor for women than for men. And diabetes raises a young woman’s heart disease risk up to five times higher compared to young men.
- Guideline-recommended medications are underused in women, compared to men, and…