More Younger Women than Men Having Heart Attacks. Why?

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Below the age of 55, women are more likely to be hospitalized for an acute heart attack and to die within the first 30 days than men, according to a new Canadian study published in the Journal of Women’s Health.

The study analyzed more than 70,000 individuals admitted to hospitals after a heart attack in British Columbia during a ten-year period from 2000 to 2009. The results showed an overall decline in admission rates and subsequent early mortality for both sexes with the exception of younger women. Compared to younger men, women were at a significantly increased risk for hospitalization, and at a 45 percent higher risk to die within a month of their heart attack.

Much of the overall reduction in admissions for heart attacks in the Canadian study was due to a general focus on the elderly and improvements in primary prevention and therapy strategies. Younger women, the researchers noted, could be more vulnerable than men due to a greater incidence of so-called “co-morbidities,” that is, poorer health status related to accompanying conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, hypertension, and depression, and increasing rates of smoking and obesity.

The new Canadian study adds to the evidence previously presented by U.S. researchers indicating an increasing trend in heart attack hospitalizations among younger women from 1997 to 2006.

Access study abstract here.

 My Viewpoint: Younger women tend not to think of themselves as vulnerable to heart attacks as men. For nearly three decades, however, more women than men have died each year from cardiovascular causes. Heart disease, in fact, is much more of a killer of women of all ages than breast cancer, for which there is much more awareness.

 What This Means to You: If you are a woman, this is another wake-up call about the importance of taking good care of YOURSELF. Women tend to be great nurturers FOR OTHERS. They often learn the hard way the importance of nurturing themselves.

 Recommendation: Get a cardiovascular checkup periodically. Women have smaller blood vessels around the heart, and that could be another factor that increases vulnerability. You must reduce the stress in your life, a difficult challenge, particularly for working mothers. Stress generates high blood pressure, and aside from smoking cessation, hypertension control is the single most important intervention to reduce the risk of future cardiovascular events in women. Total life expectancy is almost five years less for women of 50 with high blood pressure compared to those without it.

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