Why women are dying at double the rate of men
TO the medical profession, heart attacks are common. And the type where blood flow to the heart itself is stopped by blocked arteries is among the most common of all.
About 22 Australians die from it every day.
But women are dying at double the rate of men.
TheMedical Journal of Australia study looked at the records of 2898 patients (2183 men and 715 women) from the past decade who suffered the particularly deadly type of heart attack that involves a sudden blockage of blood to the heart by fatty deposits on artery walls. This starves the heart of oxygen and damages its muscle tissue.
It's known in medical terms as ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and makes up about 20 per cent of all heart attacks.
But, the study shows women are half as likely to be given the appropriate tests and treatment as men. They are also less likely to be prescribed appropriate medications and treatments.
The cause of the deadly disparity is not clear. But researchers say it could be an unconscious bias among medical institutions and health care workers.
People simply don't expect women to die from a heart attack.
Neither the victim, nor those treating them.
"It might be due to poor awareness that women with STEMI are generally at higher risk, or by a preference for subjectively assessing risk rather than applying more reliable, objective risk prediction tools," the study's senior author, University of Sydney's Professor Clara Chow, said in a statement.
"Whatever the cause, these differences aren't justified. We need to do more research to discover why women suffering serious heart attacks are being under-investigated by health services and urgently identify ways to redress the disparity in treatment and health outcomes."
The study looked at records from 41 hospitals across Australia which covered the period from February 2009 and May 2016.
The average age of women suffering STEMI was 66.6 years, compared to 60.5 for men. More of the women also suffered hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease or dementia.
"While we have long recognised that older patients and those with other complicating illnesses are less likely to receive evidence based treatment, this study will prompt us to refocus our attention on women with STEMI," co-author Professor David Brieger said.