Women who go into cardiac arrest outside of hospital are less likely to recieve resuscitation from bystanders than men, and are more likely to die as a result.
New research, published in the European Heart Journal, found men and women did not receive equal treatment when having a heart attack either at home or in public, being left for longer before people stepped in to help.
The reason behind this, the authors say, is because people are less likely to acknowledge the symptoms of cardiac arrest in women (which can be different to men’s) and so delay calling an ambulance or intervening.
The British Heart Foundation says 68,000 women go to hospital following a heart attack each year in the UK – an average of 186 per day, or 8 per hour.
Despite these high numbers cardiologist Dr Hanno Tan at the University of Amsterdam says that the symptoms of a heart attack may not be recognised so quickly in women as in their male counterparts.
“People may be less aware that cardiac arrest can occur as often in women as in men, and the women themselves may not recognise the urgency of their symptoms,” said Dr Tan.
He added: “Women may have symptoms of an impending heart attack that are less easy to interpret, such as fatigue, fainting, vomiting and neck or jaw pain, whereas men are more likely to report typical complaints such as chest pain.”
In the study, which analysed data from all resuscitation attempts by one province in the Netherlands between 2006-2012, they found women were less likely than men to receive a resuscitation attempt by a bystander (68% versus 73%) even when someone witnessed the collapse.
And survival from the time of the cardiac arrest to admission to hospital was lower in women (34% versus 37%), and women were less likely to survive from admission to discharge (37% versus 55%).
They also said higher numbers of women living alone might account for some of the reason that women are more likely to die as a result of cardiac arrest.
The researchers also found differences in the way women were treated in hospital. They were less likely to be diagnosed with an acute myocardial infarction, and less likely to undergo coronary angiography or percutaneous coronary intervention.
The researchers call for a range of measures to tackle the problem of survival differences between men and women, including public awareness campaigns about heart attack and cardiac arrest in women.
They also recommended women who live on their own should consider wearable devices that monitor heart rate and circulation and that can send alerts to monitoring systems.