New research has shown that some women are putting their lives and health at risk by not properly acting on their own heart attack symptoms.
Spanish research presented at the Acute Cardiovascular Care congress at the weekend by the Polish Registry of Acute Coronary Syndromes (PL-ACS) found women call an ambulance for husbands, brothers and fathers with heart attack symptoms, but not themselves. The research is calling for women to take care of themselves too. Ischaemic heart disease is the leading cause of death in both women and men, but the research shows disparities in management between the two genders.
“Very often women run the house, send children to school, and prepare for family celebrations,” principal investigator Mariusz Gasior said in a statement. “We hear over and over again that these responsibilities delay women from calling an ambulance if they experience symptoms of a heart attack.”
Registry coordinator Marek Gierlotka added: “In addition to running the household, women make sure that male relatives receive urgent medical help when needed. It is time for women to take care of themselves too.”
Researchers analysed 7,582 patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) as part of the study. STEMI is a serious type of heart attack where one of the artery that supplies oxygen and blood to the heart is blocked.
In these patients, restoring blood flow as quickly as possible is essential in salvaging heart muscle and preventing tissue from dying. Acting quickly can also reduce the risk of heart failure and death and opening the artery with a stent within 90 minutes of diagnosis in the ambulance by electrocardiogram (ECG) is recommended by professionals for the best result.
The study found 45 per cent of patients were treated within 90 minutes but more often than not, the patients weren’t women. Researchers adjusted factors that could influence the relationship but being male was still an independent predictor of treatment within the recommended timeframe.
Patients treated promptly were also less likely to have a left ventricle ejection fraction below 40 per cent, which researchers said meant their heart was better able to pump blood. They also had a lower chance of developing heart failure.
The study also found that ECG results were transmitted from the ambulance to a heart attack centre in around 40 per cent of patients and that in women, the likelihood of ECG transfer rose with age. In women under 54 the rate was 34 per cent, but increased to 45 per cent in women aged over 75.
“One of the reasons women are less likely than men to be treated within the recommended time period is because they take longer to call an ambulance when they have symptoms – this is especially true for younger women,” Gasior said. “In addition, ECG results for younger women are less often sent to the heart attack centre, which is recommended to speed up treatment”
Researchers also said more needs to be done to ensure women are aware that they may also suffer a heart attack.
“Greater awareness should be promoted among medical staff and the general public that women, even young women, also have heart attacks,” Gierlotka said. “Women are more likely to have atypical signs and symptoms, which may contribute to a delay in calling for medical assistance.”
In addition to pain in the chest and left arm, women can also notice pain in the back, shoulder or stomach. It’s always important to call an ambulance as soon as possible when any pain is detected for more than 15 minutes in the chest, throat, neck, back, stomach or shoulder.
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