A study from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute has found that women are more likely to die from heart failure than men.
Furthermore, scientists found that while hospitalization rates for heart failure have declined in men, they have increased in women.
The results, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, are the latest case showing that heart disease affects women differently than men.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among adults, of both sexes. But it’s particularly acute in women: Since 1984, heart disease has killed more women than men each year. And according to Harvard Medical School 425,000 women a year have a stroke in the U.S. — 55,000 more than men.
For their study, Ottawa researchers looked at data from 90,000 patients diagnosed with heart failure between the years 2009 and 2014. They found that the women patients were generally “older and frailer” than their male counterparts. (A Harvard report says that the average age of a first heart attack for a woman is 72, compared with 65 for men.)
The Ottawa study also found that within a year after the initial diagnosis, 16.8 percent of women died, compared with 14.9 percent of men. Furthermore, 98 percent of women suffering from heart failure were hospitalized, vs. 91 percent of men.
“We found that mortality from heart failure remains high, especially in women; that hospital admissions for heart failure decreased in men but increased in women; and that women and men had different associated comorbidities,” or multiple chronic diseases, write the authors.
Researchers have guessed that the higher death rates have to do with women having heart attacks at an older age than men. Harvard Medical School also revealed that women are more likely than men to develop “small vessel disease,” where “blockages occur in the tiny vessels within the heart muscle rather than in the large, surface arteries, which are harder to detect.”
The Ottawa researchers suggest some next steps for future studies on the gender disparities when it comes to heart disease.
“Further studies should focus on sex differences in health-seeking behavior, medical therapy and response to therapy to improve outcomes in women,” they write.