Women More Likely Than Men to Die in First Year After Heart Attack

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Compared with men, women are at significantly higher risk of death in the first year after a heart attack, a new study has found.

The generally higher risk of death in women who have heart attacks is well known, but the differences are largely explained by women’s older age when the attack occurs, higher rates of other diseases, and types of treatment they typically receive.

This new analysis, published in PLOS One, controlled for those variables and others. Researchers studied 802 men and 802 women matched for age, hypertension, diabetes, smoking status, various measures of heart function and the types of treatment and medications they received.

In the first year of a five-year follow-up, women were 60 percent more likely to die than their male counterparts. Beyond the first year, men’s and women’s death rates did not differ.

The reasons are unclear, but the authors suggest that higher levels of psychological stress and depression in women may play a role. They did not have the data to assess these factors.

“We should follow female patients more carefully,” said the senior author, Dr. Georg Schmidt, a professor of cardiology at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. “As doctors, we should ask our patients about their concerns, and look for opportunities for support beyond drugs and other standard treatments.”