Women's Heart Attacks Kill More Often

By Carpenter, S. | Science News, July 24, 1999 | Go to article overview

Women's Heart Attacks Kill More Often


Carpenter, S., Science News


Heart attacks typically hit men at an earlier age than they do women, but women may not hold the ultimate advantage. Among people stricken during middle age, women are much more likely than men to die in the hospital, new findings indicate.

Using data from 1,658 hospitals around the United States, researchers led by Viola Vaccarino of Yale University studied almost 400,000 men and women between the ages of 30 and 89 who were hospitalized for heart attacks.

The team found that the male patients were on average almost 7 years younger than the female patients. However, 16.7 percent of women but only 11.5 percent of men died in the hospital, although about the same number of men and women died. For patients under age 50, women were more than twice as likely as men to die in the hospital, the group reports in the July 22 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE. That gap steadily narrowed as patients got older, closing at age 74.

Seeking an explanation for this striking pattern, Vaccarino's group uncovered several notable sex differences among younger patients, none of which emerged in elderly patients.

Women under age 70 were more likely than their male counterparts to have diabetes, congestive heart failure, or stroke, lessening their odds of surviving a heart attack. Younger women also tended to wait longer than men before going to the emergency room and were more often misdiagnosed. The researchers report that the crushing chest pain and other warning signs that typify men's heart attacks are less common for women, making their symptoms tougher to evaluate. …

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