Research in the News: Women fare worse than men following heart attack

Young women who have heart attacks have worse health outcomes than men, according to a study by Yale School of Medicine researchers.

Under the leadership of Dr. Harlan Krumholz, director of the Yale-New Haven Hospital Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, a Yale team tracked over 230,000 hospitalizations of patients suffering from acute myocardial infarction (AMI) between 30 and 54 years of age from 2001 to 2010. Krumholz is also a faculty member at the Yale School of Medicine.

The team searched for age-and gender-based differences in hospitalization rates and patient outcomes after hospitalization following AMI based on age and gender.

Although hospitalization rates were higher for men than for women, Aakriti Gupta, a resident at the Yale School of Medicine and lead author on this paper, found that hospitalized women had longer lengths of stay, more comorbidities (The appearance of multiple diseases), and higher in-hospital mortality rates than men.

Gupta also found that between 2001 and 2010, the hospitalization rate for AMI remained constant for both genders, whereas for older patients the hospitalization rate dropped 20%.

“It is concerning that hospitalization rates for heart attack in the young have not shown any reduction, suggesting that lack of awareness and poorer control of cardiovascular risk factors — including diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking may be responsible,” said Gupta.

Krumholz and his team are now working to identify the gender-specific biological, clinical and social factors underlying the higher risks associated with heart attack in younger women. This work is part of a larger research project known as Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes in Young AMI Patients (VIRGO).

In the meantime, Gupta suggests that physicians and other health care professionals seek opportunities to inform the patients, policy makers, and the public about cardiovascular risk factors, and that they direct resources toward younger patients to reduce AMI hospitalization rates.

Other authors include Yongfei Wang, John A. Spertus, Mary Geda, Nancy Lorenze, Chileshe Nkonde-Price, Gail D’Onofrio, and Judith H. Lichtman.

This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (U01 HL105270-04 & R01 LH081153-06).

Citation:  Journal of the American College of Cardiology. (Vol. 64, No. 4, 2014)