Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both genders. On average, a first heart attack strikes at age 65 for men and 72 for women. Heart attacks prevent a blockage of blood flow from moving to the heart muscle. However, why is it that more middle-aged men have heart attacks than women in the exact age group? Historically, men have higher rates of unhealthy habits, such as smoking and stress, yet heart disease continues to be the under-recognized, leading cause of death in women.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Some studies inform that women are more likely to have “atypical” symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Men are more likely to have chest pain, chest discomfort, and chest pressure.
“Women may overlook even the classic heart attack symptoms, like chest pain and pressure,” she says. Women also may tend to minimize their symptoms and extend treatment. In one study, it was found that the average delay to for women was about 54 hours, compared with 16 hours for men.
Heart Attack Treatment
Last year, the American Heart Association released its first scientific statement about women’s heart attacks, which addresses other disparities between genders. In example, after a year of a first heart attack, survival rates decline for women than for men — regardless of age. Within five years, 47 percent of women who’ve suffered a heart attack will either die, develop heart failure, or experience a stroke, compared with 36 percent of men.
Women also tend to be older in age and have more health issues when they develop heart disease, and those differences might explain the gender survival gap. However, providing universal, top-notch care at hospital discharge could help with eliminating the death rate differences. Research has also shown that women fail to take their medications on time than men. More research is still underway to determine these disparities.
What does the heart health gender gap have to do with you and your family? First, be sure to trust your instincts if you think you might be having, or have had, a heart attack — call 911 and get checked out at the hospital. To minimize the risks of a heart attack and increase your heart health, it’s important to avoid smoking, drinking, and high-stress.
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