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Women 50% more likely to die in year after heart attack

Women are more likely to die in the year following a heart attack due to the stress they are under to return to normal, research suggests.

A five-year investigation revealed the risk of death in the 12 months after a heart attack is increased by 50 per cent for females. 

German scientists believe it could be down to the intense pressure placed upon women to juggle their career and children. 

They also claim it could be because women suffer ‘different’ heart attacks, and tend to be older when they do – which leaves them more vulnerable.

Technical University of Munich researchers are now calling for female patients, who are expected to start ‘functioning’ again sooner, to be given 365 days of intensive support after a heart attack. 

A five-year investigation revealed the risk of death in the 12 months after a heart attack is increased by 50 per cent for females

Professor Georg Schmidt, a cardiologist involved in the study, said: ‘In everyday life, women often face different expectations after a heart attack than men.

‘They are expected to start “functioning” again sooner, which means that they are subject to bigger stresses.’

How was the study carried out? 

The research, published in the medical journal PLoS ONE, used data from 4,100 participants to make the conclusion.

They discovered that women were 1.5 times as likely to die as men in the first 365 days after their heart attack.

However, no other gender differences could be noted when they adjusted for age, other conditions and type of treatment.

Heart attacks: The facts 

Some 69,000 women have a heart attack in the UK every year, compared to 119,000 men. In the US, figures estimate 715,000 Americans suffer each year.


Doctors are failing to spot thousands of heart attacks suffered by women every year, a major study warned last August.

According to an analysis of 600,000 British patients, women are 50 per cent more likely than men to have a heart attack misdiagnosed.

Experts said this ‘alarming’ disparity in diagnosis may be because doctors wrongly think of heart disease as a problem that only affects middle-aged overweight men.

As a result, they are more likely to incorrectly diagnose women heart attack sufferers as having a less serious problem – such as indigestion or muscle pain. 

The new findings back up an array of research in recent years which has shown that women are more likely to die from heart attacks.

Why are women more at risk? 

Experts warn this is because female patients tend to be elderly, and are more likely to have accompanying conditions.

Another reason suggested is heart attacks in women are less likely to be triggered by narrowing of blood vessels – which can be widened fairly easily.

Instead they suffer more often from diffuse coronary artery disease. In these cases, local ablation procedures have less chance of success. 

Women also more likely to suffer from other complications such as diabetes, which makes spotting the problems harder.

And they often have atypical, vague symptoms, such as back or jaw pain and nausea – as opposed to chest pain, deemed the primary sign of a heart attack.

The symptoms of a heart attack 

Doctors warn that not enough people know the symptoms of a heart attack – and often mistake the warning signs for indigestion or muscle pain.

Many people assume that a heart attack strikes suddenly, with someone clutching their chest and keeling over.

Instead, it happens gradually, with people typically complaining of nausea and an aching chest, jaw or arms.

Rapid treatment is essential, with nearly half of the salvageable heart muscle being lost in the first hour of the attack starting. 


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