Doctors Less Likely To Provide Women With Heart Attack Treatments

Armen Hareyan's picture
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A new study has found that women with coronary artery disease are significantly less likely than men to be treated with medications to prevent heart attacks.

That's why WomenHeart - the national coalition for women with heart disease -- is calling on doctors to take extra precautions to make sure that women are getting the care that they need.

"This study should serve as a wake-up call to doctors and women alike," said Lisa Tate, WomenHeart CEO. "Heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women. Clearly, too women are not getting the medical care that they need."

The study, published this month in the journal Heart, was based on data from 25,755 men and women who had a heart attack or chest pain between 1999 and 2006. All of the patients had an angiogram to check for blockages in their heart's blood vessels.

Among heart patients, women were significantly less likely than men to receive medications called beta blockers, statins and ACE inhibitors - which experts say are crucial to preventing further heart problems, the study's authors said. Female patients also were less likely to get treatments to open their blood vessels.

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According to the study, women with more advanced coronary artery disease were more likely than men to have died, or to have suffered another heart attack or stroke within six months of their initial hospitalization.

The study also found that women were twice as likely as men to have "normal" or "mild" results on an exam of their heart's blood vessels. This was despite the fact that other tests confirmed that the women were having a heart attack or unstable angina.

Part of the problem is that atherosclerosis -- a progressive buildup of fatty deposits or plaque in the body's arteries - can get worse over time without a person experiencing any symptoms. That's why it's critically important that women get regular check-ups and talk with their doctors about preventing heart disease.

The study's authors note that many patients and doctors don't view coronary artery disease for what it is: a problem that must be prevented through lifestyle changes as well as medications and, for emergency cases, treatments such as angioplasty.

As noted by the study's authors: The best way to prevent heart problems is through improvements in diet and exercise habits, quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar, and using medication when needed.

"Heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women and kills 32 percent of them," said Tate. "In fact, 267,000 women die every year from heart attacks -- more than six times as many women as breast cancer. It's time we all took action to reduce these tragic numbers."

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