Is it more difficult for women to recover after a heart attack than men?

New research shows why doctors should be giving women stronger warnings about the existing consequences after a heart attack.

Reuters reports on the new study any why it is important for women to know this information.

Experts find that women are more stressed than men after a heart attack and possibly have a greater chance of having another heart attack due to this stress.

Experts are saying women report more stress than men soon after a heart attack and this explains their worse recovery. The lead author of this study is Dr. Xu, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Dr. Xu commented on the study telling Reuters,

“It has been known for a while that (the) mortality rate is higher in younger women than in younger men after heart attack. But few studies have looked at gender differences in other outcomes. Women tend to experience greater stress than men, even in the general population regardless of heart attack status. Our study confirmed such a gender difference in young and middle-aged patients with heart attack.”

How was the study conducted?

Experts compared 2,397 women and 1,175 men under the age of fifty-five who were hospitalized in the United States, Australia and Spain. The seriousness of the heart attacks was almost the same for men and women. During the time of their hospital stay, participants answered fourteen questions about their recent stress levels. After a month, researchers re-interviewed them and to analyze how their recovery processes were going.

What was the outcome?

Researchers say at the first interview, those who were of a younger age and female tended to have higher stress scores than those who were older or male. The authors reported their findings in a paper scheduled for publication in the journal Circulation. The team created a 0- to 56-point stress scale, where men averaged 23.4 points and women averaged a higher number at around 27 points.

“A third of women had experienced major family conflict within the past year compared to 20 percent of men. More women than men also reported a major personal injury, illness or death of a family member over the past year. Women tend to have lower financial resources than men and are often faced with more demands for family care, which may explain their higher stress. Women in the study also had more diabetes, lung disease, kidney problems, depression, cancer and previous heart problems. At the one-month point, women had worse chest-pain related physical function, quality of life and overall health,” according to Reuters.

He experts said that after a heart attack, doctors should be advising patients to adopt healthy lifestyles and receive therapies such as beta-blockers. However people under more stress may be less likely to follow this advice.

The experts also said that stressed people are more likely to take part in smoking and drinking behaviors or have disruptions in their treatment process. They also said that all heart attack patients, irrespective of gender, should be screened for chronic stress.

Dr. Arnold, a research assistant professor at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, was not involved in the research but commented on the study.

She said, “We had known that women have worse health status after a heart attack for some time. What we don't really understand is why. Stress is associated with heart attack and even death.”


Gerry Oginski
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