Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Women have more than a 20% higher risk for heart failure within five years of their first severe heart attack than men, a study published Monday by the journal Circulation found.
In addition, following a life-threatening heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, women were more than twice as likely as men to die of heart failure in the hospital, the data showed.
"Identifying when and how women may be at higher risk for heart failure after a heart attack can help providers develop more effective approaches for prevention," study co-author Dr. Justin A. Ezekowitz said in a press release.
Ezekowitz is a cardiologist and co-director of the Canadian VIGOUR Center at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
Up to 250,000 people in the United States have STEMIs each year, and women are believed to be at higher risk for the severe type of heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.
For this study, researchers identified more than 45,000 adults hospitalized for a first heart attack between 2002 and 2016 in Alberta, Canada, and followed them for an average of just over six years.
They focused on two types of heart attack -- STEMI and a less severe type called non-STEMI, the latter of which is more common.
Nearly 25,000 of the study participants had the less severe form of heart attack and, among this group, 34% were women and 66% were men, the data showed.
Just over 20,000 of the study participants suffered a STEMI, and 27% of them were women, the researchers said.
The development of heart failure either in the hospital or after discharge remained higher for women than men following a STEMI -- 23% versus 15% -- and a non-STEMI -- 23% versus 16% -- according to researchers.
In addition, women had a higher rate of death in the hospital than men, whether they had a STEMI -- 9.4% versus 4.5% -- or non-STEMI -- 4.7% versus 2.9%.
Women were an average 10 years older than men at the time of their heart attack, and also had more complicated medical histories at the time of their heart attacks.
Many also had histories of high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which raised their risk for heart failure, the researchers said.
Whether their heart attacks were the severe or less severe type, fewer women were prescribed medications such as beta blockers or cholesterol-lowering drugs, and women also had slightly lower rates of revascularization procedures to restore blood flow, such as surgical angioplasty, the data showed.
Based on these findings, future studies need to assess whether all patients are receiving the best care, particularly women, the researchers said.
"There are gaps across diagnosis, access, quality of care and follow-up for all patients," study co-author Padma Kaul said.
"We need to be vigilant, pay attention to our own biases and to those most vulnerable to ensure that we have done everything possible in providing the best treatment," said Kaul, co-director of the Canadian VIGOUR Center.