Risk of Death from Heart Attack Knows No Gender Bias

February 22, 2011

New research from the University of Michigan indicates that gender does not in fact play a role in the risk of death from heart attack.

Being a woman may not increase the risk of dying from treatment for a severe heart attack, according to research from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, which also found that women who received treatment such as an angioplasty had higher unadjusted in-hospital heart attack deaths.

These differences, however, appear to be related to women’s ages and additional health problems, and not gender, according to study lead author Elizabeth Jackson, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Health System.

“When we adjusted for factors such as age and co-morbidities like hypertension and diabetes, women had similar mortality rates at the time of the heart attack as men,” said Jackson in a press release. “But women still appear to be more likely to have a bleeding episode in the hospital that requires a transfusion or vascular complications.”

The five-year study published in the American Heart Journal showed that compared with men, women were older with more co-morbidities at the time of treatment.

Women account for about one-third of patients who undergo procedures such as percutaneous coronary interventions to clear the clogged arteries causing a heart attack.

In the study, researchers examined the outcomes of 8,771 patients undergoing a procedure for an acute ST-elevation myocardial infarction, commonly known as a severe heart attack.

Patients were part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Cardiovascular Consortium registry, a physician-led quality improvement collaborative that is supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network.

Previous investigations using other registries have found women had higher in-hospital mortality rates than men, but recent advancements in treatment changed how doctors care for these patients and the team wanted to re-investigate with more current data, said Jackson.

“Overall, there have been tremendous improvements in the care of both men and women who suffer a heart attack, but further research on everyday patients, such as those in the registry, is needed to be able to continue improving our level of care,” she noted.

Cardiovascular disease kills nearly twice as many women in the United States than all types of cancer, including breast cancer, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). February is American Heart Month and several initiatives—such as the AHA’s annual National Wear Red Day and the new “Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat” campaign by the HHS and its Office on Women's Health—aim to bring national attention to women’s heart disease.