When it comes to heart attacks, aggressive treatment saves lives, but a new study shows women get such inadequate care, they are twice as likely to die from a severe heart attack than men.
"I'm enraged. Women should be enraged. All Americans should be enraged," said Dr. Sharonne Hayes of the Mayo Clinic. "Women are not getting the treatment they should be getting."
Women, according to a recent study of U.S. hospitals, are not given normal heart-attack treatments as often as men were. The study found that women were 14 percent less likely to get early aspirin, which minimizes blood clotting, 10 percent less likely to get beta blockers, which stabilizes heart rhythm, and 25 percent less likely to get drugs or stent to restore blood flow.
Although it's clear women receive inferior heart treatment, the reasons are unclear. Some doctors may not believe women who complain of heart problems.
When Debbie Dunn had heart attack symptoms, it took three hours to convince her doctors.
"Because it did not add up to what they typically saw coming through the emergency room, I think I was not even considered to be a heart patient," she said.
The disparity in treatment has been going on for more than two decades and includes the use of cholesterol- lowering drugs, heart failure medications, implantable defibrillators and cardiac rehabilitation.
Hospitals are now being called upon to pay closer attention to female heart patients.
"Prior to discharge, a patient should be carefully assessed for what has happened, doctors questioned, if necessary as to why decisions were made differently for women than were made for men," Dr. Marianne Legato of the Columbia University College of Medicine said.
Hopefully shedding new light on this inequality, more women will survive severe heart attacks.