Heart attack differs in women from men, new scientific statement reports
Heart attack causes, symptoms and outcomes may be different in women than in men, reports American Heart Association (AHA) expert writing group, co-chaired by Theresa Beckie, PhD, professor and cardiovascular health researcher at USF College of Nursing and USF Health department of cardiovascular sciences.
The groundbreaking scientific statement, published on Jan. 25 in the AHA’s journal Circulation, shows that women are at much higher risk than men– leading to worse outcomes including readmission rates, serious complications and deaths. Those differences in risk factors and outcomes are even more prevalent in black and Hispanic women.
This is AHA’s first-of-its-kind scientific statement on heart attacks in women, the authors state.
“Despite stunning improvements in cardiovascular mortality for women in the past two decades, heart diseases remains understudied, underdiagnosed and undertreated in women,” said Dr. Beckie. “Heart disease is an equal-opportunity killer, and since 1984, the mortality burden has been higher in women than men.”
Plaque build-up in arteries differs in women, the study says. Unlike men, women can have less severe blockages in the microvascular circulation that do not require any stents or coronary bypass surgery, but the heart’s coronary artery blood vessels are damaged-decreasing blood flow to the heart muscle. The study shows that women face greater complications from attempts to restore blood flow because their blood vessels tend to be smaller.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and AHA. Heart attack symptoms in women include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and also upper back pain or unusual fatigue.
Black and Hispanic women are at higher risk for heart attacks than other women. These women also tend to have more heart-related risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, the scientific statement says.
“Current evidence tells us that cardiovascular deaths among women have dramatically declined,” said Dr. Beckie. “However, we need to do so much more. There is a huge need for continued public health interventions and awareness, especially among racial and ethnic minority women.”
This scientific statement represents a collaborative effort of AHA members, which is comprised of renowned cardiovascular scientists from across the nation. Dr. Beckie said she is proud to be part of an organization such as AHA, which is committed to raising awareness of heart disease in women and more importantly reducing the development and burden of heart disease in women.
Dr. Beckie’s research has focused on women with cardiovascular disease for two decades. She has received national recognition for her life-changing research on improving risk factors and health outcomes among women with heart disease.
For more details on the research study go to the AHA press release here.
To read the full study go here.
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