Women 20% more likely to die within five years of first heart attack

Women are 20 per cent more likely to die within five years of their first heart attack than men, study warns

  • Canadian researchers studied 45,064 patients hospitalised after a heart attack
  • They monitored each subject for an average of around six years after the event
  • The team found that women typically received poorer treatment than men do
  • This includes less surgeries, specialist consultations and prescriptions written 

Women are 20 per cent more likely to die in the first five years after their first heart attack than men, a study has concluded.

Researchers from Canada studied 45,064 patients from Canada who had been hospitalised after their first heart attack, monitoring them each for around six years. 

The team found that women are receiving poorer treatment than men on average — with less surgeries performed, specialist consultations and medications prescribed.

Women are 20 per cent more likely to die in the first five years after their first heart attack than men, a study has concluded. Pictured, a woman experiencing chest pains (stock image)

Heart attacks come in two forms — a life-threatening form called an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, and a less-severe version called non-STEMI, which is more common.

In their study, the team found that the development of heart failure after a STEMI or a non-STEMI — whether in hospital of following discharge — remains higher for women than for men.

Specifically, women were 9.4 per cent more likely to die in hospital following a STEMI and 4.5 per after an non-STEMI — as compared to 4.7 per cent and 2.9 per cent, respectively, for men.

On average, the women in the cohort studied were just over 10 years older than the men — with a mean age of 72, compared with 61 — and were more likely to have other health problems.

These included conditions like atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Despite these increased health problems, only 72.8 per cent of the women were seen by a cardiovascular specialist, as compared to 84 per cent of men.

‘Identifying when and how women may be at higher risk for heart failure after a heart attack can help providers develop more effective approaches for prevention,’ said paper author and cardiologist Justin Ezekowitz of the University of Alberta.

‘Better adherence to reducing cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure, getting more exercise, eating a healthy diet and stopping smoking, combined with recognition of these problems earlier in life would save thousands of lives.’

The same advice would also apply well to men, he added.

‘Close enough is not good enough. There are gaps across diagnosis, access, quality of care and follow-up for all patients,’ said cardiologist Padma Kaul of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

‘We need to be vigilant, pay attention to our own biases and to those most vulnerable to ensure that we have done everything possible in providing the best treatment,’ Dr Kaul added.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Circulation.


Figures suggest there are 200,000 hospital visits because of heart attacks in the UK each year, while there are around 800,000 annually in the US.

A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked. 

Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and feeling weak and anxious.

Heart attacks are commonly caused by coronary heart disease, which can be brought on by smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Treatment is usually medication to dissolve blots clots or surgery to remove the blockage.

Reduce your risk by not smoking, exercising regularly and drinking in moderation.

Heart attacks are different to a cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, usually due to a problem with electrical signals in the organ. 

Source: NHS Choices

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