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Inequalities in heart attack care ‘costing women’s lives’

Women are 50% more likely to receive a wrong initial diagnosis

Inequalities in awareness, diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks are leading to women needlessly dying every day in the UK, a charity has warned.

A briefing from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimates that more than 8,200 women in England and Wales died over a 10-year period because they did not receive equal treatment to men.

Research shows women often delay seeking medical help, which can reduce their chance of survival. The average delay between the onset of symptoms and arrival at hospital for men ranges between one hour 24 minutes and 3 hours 30 minutes, compared to between one hour 48 minutes and seven hours 12 minutes for women.

Women are also 50% more likely to receive a wrong initial diagnosis when they are having a heart attack and they often receive poorer aftercare. Women in England and Wales are 2.7% less likely to be prescribed statins and 7.4% less likely to be prescribed beta blockers when leaving hospital.  Despite public misperceptions, twice as many women die from coronary heart disease – the underlying cause of most heart attacks – than breast cancer in the UK.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, said: “The first steps to closing this gender gap include changing the public perception of women and heart attacks. The assumption that women are not at risk of heart attack is false, and has proven to be deadly.”