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Women face greater risk of death after heart attack treatment

Women are more likely to die after heart attack treatment than men, new research has found.

Experts said this could be because women tend to be older when they suffer heart attacks, and are also more likely to be diabetic.

The study, by the Paris Cardiovascular Research Centre, also discovered women are less likely to have an angioplasty, a procedure undertaken to widen blocked or narrowed coronary arteries to get blood back flowing to the heart. Experts suggested fewer females received angioplasty treatment possibly because of the "wrong attitude of physicians".

The research, which is being presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in London, involved 11,420 people who suffered cardiac arrest while not in hospital.

The pre-hospital survival rate for women was 18 per cent, compared with 26 per cent for men, while angioplasty was performed on 26 per cent of women but 36 per cent of men.

"When they have a heart attack, women are usually older and tend to be diabetic more often, both of which are important factors that increase mortality risk," Professor Carlo Di Mario, a coronary heart disease expert at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust in London, said.

"These are obviously pre-existing conditions that cannot be changed, even with better treatment. These factors are, however, unlikely to be the only reason for their higher mortality.

"The medical community must still decide how much of this gender imbalance in angioplasty treatment is due to inherent characteristics within the female population [and how much is due] to the wrong attitude of physicians."

Heart attacks are mainly triggered by coronary heart disease, which kills about 73,000 people in the UK every year and is the leading cause of death in both sexes. Coronary heart disease generally affects more men than women, although from the age of 50, the chances of developing the condition are similar for both.

About 850,000 British women are living with the condition but many are unaware they have it.

Di Mario said greater awareness about the disease was necessary and that men were more likely to pick up on symptoms, which included chest pain, heart attacks and heart failure.

"A 45-year-old healthy woman checks her breasts when she showers but may have never checked her cholesterol or measured her blood pressure because she will not think she is at risk of a heart attack," he said.

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