‘Heart attack gender gap’ causing needless deaths of women, charity warns

‘Women don’t receive the same standard of treatment as men’

Sabrina Barr
Monday 30 September 2019 06:44 BST

A “heart attack gender gap” is resulting in needless deaths of women because they do not receive the same treatment as men, a charity has warned.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has released a new briefing titled “Bias and Biology: How the gender gap in heart disease is costing women’s lives”.

A study funded by the charity and conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds found that, over a 10-year period, more than 8,200 heart attack deaths among women in England and Wales could have been prevented if they had received equal treatment to men, equating to two deaths a day.

The research also showed that women are 50 per cent more likely than men to initially receive an incorrect diagnosis when they are experiencing a heart attack.

The BHF warned that while heart attacks are widely perceived as a “man’s disease”, twice as many women die from coronary heart disease than from breast cancer.

A global review included in the BHF briefing stated that on average, women take longer than men to arrive at hospital once they start experiencing symptoms of heart attack.

Furthermore, another study funded by the charity found that women are 2.7 per cent less likely than men to be prescribed statins once they leave hospital having been admitted for a heart attack, and 7.4 per cent less likely to be prescribed beta blockers.

“Heart attacks have never been more treatable. Yet women are dying needlessly because heart attacks are often seen as a man’s disease, and women don’t receive the same standard of treatment as men,” said Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, consultant cardiologist and associate medical director at BHF.

“The studies detailed in this briefing have revealed inequalities at every stage of a woman’s journey. The reasons for this are complex to dissect. Together, we must change this.”

According to the BHF, 35,000 women in the UK are admitted to hospital after experiencing a heart attack on an annual basis, the equivalent of 98 women a day.

The charity added that risk factors for a heart attack are much more pressing among women than they are among men.

Women are at 80 per cent greater risk of experiencing a heart attack if they have high blood pressure, and at 50 per cent greater risk if they have type 2 diabetes.

Chris Gale, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Leeds and lead author of several of the studies cited in the BHF briefing, said that the problem of the “heart attack gender gap” is “not unique to the UK”.

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“Studies across the globe have also revealed gender gaps in treatment, suggesting this is a deeply entrenched and complex issue,” Professor Gale said.

“On their own, the differences in care are very small, but when we look at this across the population of the UK, it adds up to a significant loss of life. We can do better.”

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