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Study: First heart attack survival rate is worse for women

Graphic October 27, 1998
Web posted at: 6:33 p.m. EST (2333 GMT)

(CNN) -- When it comes to heart attack survival, there is a deep disparity between the sexes -- a problem that is not limited to the United States, a recent study reports.

According to the study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, women in Spain who suffer a first heart attack have a 70 percent greater risk of death or readmission to the hospital during the following month than men.

"It appears to be an experience certainly of countries, developed countries like the U.S. and England and France and Spain," said Dr. Elizabeth Ross of the American Heart Association.

The study followed 331 women and 1,129 men aged 80 years or younger who had a first heart attack. Researchers found the death rate for the women the first 28 days after the heart attack was 18.5 percent compared with 8.3 percent for men.

"The women were older," notes Dr. Nanette Wenger of the Emory University School of Medicine. "They had a lot more associated diseases."

"Heart attack was associated with diabetes and high blood pressure. They did not receive as aggressive treatment as the men did," she said.

The study also found the women did not receive the same follow-up treatment as men.

"They were less likely, particularly early on, to be referred for the balloon procedure to open up the arteries or even for bypass surgery," Wenger said.

Part of the problem may be that many women don't realize they are at risk for heart disease.

"We must change our perception of heart attack," Wenger said. "For years, heart attack was thought of as a man's disease. Women get their heart attacks later, but the woman is vulnerable."

Health experts say women need to pay more attention to the risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and realize that prevention is part of the cure.

There is more research under way concerning women and heart disease, including research on how hormone replacement therapy affects women with heart disease and whether some significantly benefit from aspirin therapy.

The American Heart Association reports that men and women in the United States suffer about the same number of heart attacks. About 1.1 million have new or repeated heart attacks each year, and the death rate is equal between men and women.

Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore and Reuters contributed to this report.

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