One of the most striking findings was that women were twice as likely as men to have “normal” or “mild” results on an exam of their heart’s blood vessels, with no single blockage taking up more than 50 percent of any one blood vessel. This was despite the fact that their other test results showed they were definitely having a heart attack, or a form of chest pain called unstable angina.
The study is based on data from 25,755 men and women in 14 countries who had a heart attack or chest pain episode between 1999 and 2006. All of the patients had an angiogram, which allows doctors to see blockages in the heart’s blood vessels, a major cause of heart attacks and chest pain. The lack of serious blockages may have something to do with other differences the researchers found: differences in how women were treated and how well they fared.
In all, among patients with the same level of coronary artery disease, women were significantly less likely than men to receive drugs called beta blockers, statins and ACE inhibitors, all of which are considered crucial to preventing further heart episodes. And no matter how serious their blockages, women were less likely to receive an angioplasty or a stent to open up their blood vessels. By six months after their heart attack or angina attack, women with more advanced coronary artery disease were more likely than men to have died, or to have suffered another heart attack, a stroke or another problem that sent them to the hospital.
The researchers also found that the symptoms women reported when they first reached the hospital were often different from those the men complained of. While 94 percent of men and 92 percent of women reported they felt chest pain, women patients who didn’t cite chest pain were more likely to experience “atypical” symptoms such as nausea and jaw pain.
The under-treatment of women – and men – with non-obstructive coronary artery disease may set patients up for more heart attacks and other problems in the future, say the researchers. In fact, both women and men with mild obstructions had similar outcomes six months after their heart attack or angina episode.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Michigan