Harvard Heart Letter

Heart attacks in younger women: Less treatment, more deaths

woman, hospital, heart attack, younger woman
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Research we're watching

Women who have heart attacks before age 60 may be less likely to receive a lifesaving procedure to restore blood flow to the heart (an angioplasty plus a stent) than men in that age group, according to a study in the Oct. 26, 2015, Journal of the American College of Cardiology. (Stents are tiny mesh tubes that help keep arteries open.)

Data for the study came from a nationwide sample of more than 630,000 people ages 18 to 59 who had heart attacks. Younger women also were more likely to die in the hospital compared with younger men (4.5% versus 3%, respectively). However, men may be more likely to die before reaching the hospital than women, which may partly explain that difference, the researchers say.

One possible explanation for the disparities in angioplasty and stenting rates may be that compared with men, younger women might be less likely to have classic heart attack symptoms like chest pain. As a result, physicians may not have diagnosed the women's heart attacks quickly enough to perform the angioplasty in time. Also, women face twice the risk of bleeding complications from the procedure, which could have contributed to it being used less frequently.