July 23 (UPI) -- Women admitted to Australian hospitals with serious heart attacks are 50 percent as likely as men to get proper treatment and die at twice the rate of men six months after discharge, a new study shows.
Researchers at the University of Sydney found the disparate situation among 2,898 patients admitted to 41 hospitals with a serious type of heart attack -- ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or STEMI -- from February 2009 to May 2016.
The findings were published Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia.
In a heart attack, a fatty deposit on an arterial wall causes a sudden and complete blockage of blood to the heart, causing damage to the heart muscle because of starvation of oxygen.
With STEMI, one of the heart's major arteries is blocked. Death can occur due to ventricular fibrillation or acute heart failure when the heart can't pump enough blood to properly supply the body.
About 790,000 Americans each year suffer heart attacks, including 210,000 who have had one previously, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We focused on patients with ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction because the clinical presentation and diagnosis of this condition is fairly consistent, and patients should receive a standardized management plan," senior author Dr. Clara Chow, a cardiologist at Westmead hospital and a University of Sydney professor,said in a press release.
She said reasons for the undertreatment and management of women compared with men aren't clear.
"It might be due to poor awareness that women with STEMI are generally at higher risk, or by a preference for subjectively assessing risk rather than applying more reliable, objective risk prediction tools," Chow said. "Whatever the cause, these differences aren't justified. We need to do more research to discover why women suffering serious heart attacks are being underinvestigated by health services and urgently identify ways to redress the disparity in treatment and health outcomes."
The study included 2,183 men with an average age of 60.5 years and 715 men with an average age of 66.6. Data came from CONCORDANCE -- Cooperative National Registry of Acute Coronary care, Guideline Adherence and Clinical Events registry.
In the study, more women than men had hypertension, diabetes, a history of prior stroke, chronic kidney disease, chronic heart failure. or dementia. But fewer had a history of previous coronary artery disease or myocardial infarction, or of prior PCI or CABG.
"While we have long recognized that older patients and those with other complicating illnesses are less likely to receive evidence-based treatment, this study will prompt us to refocus our attention on women with STEMI," co-author David Brieger, the leader of the CONCORDANCE registry, said.