A new study has been carried out by a team from the University of Leeds working with Karolinksa Institutet in Sweden that looks at the mortality rate of women compared to men during the year after having a STEMI heart attack. The study looked at data from Sweden’s online cardiac registry between 2003 and 2013.
A STEMI heart attack is caused by a blockage in the coronary artery, whereas a non-STEMI heart attack is caused by this artery being severely narrowed but not completely blocked. If a patient is having a STEMI heart attack then they have to undergo immediate treatment.
The study shows that there is a notable difference between the treatment given to patients depending on their gender. This is shown as 34% of women were less likely to undergo procedures to unblock arteries which would return the blood flow to the heart, such as stents and bypass surgery. If they received this treatment, the risk of having a STEMI heart attack would be reduced. Women were also 24% less likely to be prescribed statins after they had a heart attack, which would help to prevent them from having another. Aspirin was also 16% less likely to be prescribed to women, which helps to prevent blood clots in the arteries.
It is thought that the main reason for these gender inequalities is because of the common misconception that men are more likely to have heart attacks than women. This can be seen as previous research has also shown that women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed, meaning that it takes longer for them to be treated correctly.
Co-author of the study, Professor Chris Gale from the University of Leeds, said that this gender imbalance in care also occurs in the UK. He said this misdiagnosis “feeds the whole pathway of care”. He stated, “if you missed the first, earliest opportunity for care – you’re much more likely to miss the next point of contact – and it all adds up cumulatively and leads to a greater mortality.”
Personally, I think that hospitals should be made aware of this knowledge immediately and need to act upon it accordingly as this gender inequality cannot be allowed to continue. It is unacceptable that women should be treated any differently from men, especially as it is causing the unnecessary death of many women. I understand that it is easy to fall victim to the stereotypes that label us all but this is a factor that must be overlooked in order to deliver the best quality of care to the patients.