Startling data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) has shed light on the devastating impact of cardiovascular disease, which stands as the leading cause of death worldwide. While it is known that cardiovascular conditions spare no gender, recent research has unveiled a troubling truth—women face a mortality risk more than twice that of men following a heart attack.
Dr. Anais Hausvater, a renowned cardiologist at NYU Langone Heart specializing in women’s heart health, expressed her concerns, stating, “There have been numerous prior studies highlighting the poor outcomes among women after heart attacks. Initially, we attributed these differences to factors such as older age and associated comorbidities. However, this study, which adjusted for those factors and focused on younger women, reveals that there is more at play.”
The groundbreaking study, presented at the esteemed Heart Failure 2023 scientific congress held by the European Society of Cardiology, conducted a retrospective observational analysis. The study encompassed 884 patients, with an average age of 62 years, of which 27 percent were women.
Younger women were found to be particularly susceptible to an increased risk of heart attacks. Previous studies have already established that women experiencing ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) fare worse during their hospitalization compared to their male counterparts.
“STEMI is the most critical form of heart attack, where every passing moment holds immense significance. It is during such heart attacks that we rush patients to the cardiac catheterization lab. Delay of even a single minute can contribute to worse outcomes,” clarified Dr. Hausvater.
Prior research had attributed these disparities to older age and a higher prevalence of comorbidities. However, this study delved into the short- and long-term outcomes following STEMI in both premenopausal women (aged 55 and under) and postmenopausal women (over 55).
The study closely monitored patients admitted with STEMI, who received percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) within 48 hours of experiencing symptoms over a span of five years. Adverse outcomes were measured in terms of 30-day all-cause mortality, five-year all-cause mortality, and five-year major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE).
Among the participants, women exhibited higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and prior strokes, while men were more likely to be smokers and have coronary artery disease.
After adjusting for variables such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, peripheral artery disease, stroke, and family history, the researchers compared the risk of adverse outcomes between men and women.
At the 30-day mark, a staggering 11.8 percent of women had succumbed to the aftermath of a heart attack, in stark contrast to the 4.6 percent of men. Over a period of five years, the mortality rate soared to 32.1 percent for women, while men experienced a lower rate of 16.9 percent. Additionally, within five years, 34.2 percent of women suffered from MACE, while the corresponding figure for men stood at 19.8 percent.
Dr. Hausvater underlined, “We are aware of the protective effect of estrogen and the higher risks associated with postmenopausal women. However, over the past decade, we have witnessed an alarming rise in heart attacks among younger women, which is deeply concerning. A substantial part of this phenomenon can be attributed to under-recognized risk factors for heart disease unique to women.”