Women Died of Heart Attack More Than Men

Heart attack rates in women and men decreased overall but women died more often

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Heart attacks pose a serious risk of death to everyone, but recent research suggests that risk might be greater for young to middle-aged women.

A new study found that women died in the hospital after a heart attack less often than they did a decade ago, but they still had a higher risk of death than men.

"Learn your risk factors for heart attack and disease."

This research was conducted by Aakriti Gupta, MD, of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, and colleagues.

Using data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, the researchers identified 230,684 people aged 30 to 54 who were hospitalized for an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) between 2001 and 2010.

These researchers found that other serious health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure, increased in both men and women during the study period, and black women were most affected.

They also found that more young women died from heart attacks in the hospital than men. Although, over the decade, both genders died from heart attacks less often. From 2001 to 2010, deaths from heart attacks among young women decreased from 3.3 percent to 2.3 percent. Fewer young men died from heart attacks, as well — their death rate went from 2 percent to 1.8 percent.

Compared to men, women spent more time in the hospital. In 2010, men averaged 3.8 days in hospital after a heart attack, compared with four days for women. Over the entire decade, the length of stay for men was always less than that of women.

There was no significant reduction in time spent in hospital for people of either gender over the 10 years of the study.

The study authors noted that, after starting to experience symptoms of heart attack, women took longer to get help, which may have accounted for their worse in-hospital death rates.

The authors concluded that more research should examine why hospital lengths of stay did not differ much in the decade for either gender after heart attacks and why women are still more likely to die after heart attack than men. Further research should also address why black women have more simultaneously occurring conditions and longer hospital stays, the researchers noted.

Sarah Samaan, MD, cardiologist and physician partner at the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, TX, told dailyRx News that, although heart disease is the top killer of women, most cases are preventable.  

"It's disheartening to learn that in this age group, risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes have increased over the past 10 years, despite the fact that in many cases these conditions can be avoided simply by choosing a healthier diet, exercising, and maintaining a safe body weight," she said. "And although men still surpass women in heart attacks under age 55, the number of younger women experiencing heart attacks is rising."

Dr. Samaan encouraged women to take care of themselves.

"Women often have multiple roles, including breadwinner, mother and caregiver, and it's easy to think that with so many pressing needs, you can put off taking care of yourself for another day," she said. "But with more than 30,000 women under age 55 suffering heart attacks every year, it's time to realize that the consequences of ignoring your health can be devastating and sometimes irreversible."

This study was published July 21 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. John Spertus, a co-author, disclosed receiving past research grants from Genentech and Eli Lilly. Dr. Harlan Krumholz, another study author, disclosed having a research agreement to share data with Johnson & Johnson and that he is chair of a scientific advisory board for UnitedHealthcare. The researchers reported no other conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 21, 2014
Last Updated:
July 24, 2014