9 Jan 2018

NZ women face discrimination in heart treatment

6:24 pm on 9 January 2018

New research has found that women are up to three times more likely to die in the year after having a heart attack as men, because they are not given the same treatment.

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Photo: 123RF

The study was carried out by British and Swedish scientists.

In New Zealand three thousand women die each year from heart attacks - that's eight a day.

The director of coronary care at Auckland City Hospital, Harvey White, said when researchers looked at the treatment that women received, they were discriminated against.

"Fewer of the women got aspirin, fewer of the women got stenting, fewer of the women got statins. These are all treatments that we recommend all patients should have because they don't have side effects."

He said when women did receive these therapies then their mortality was the same as men.

Professor White said it wasn't clear why women weren't offered these treatments, because all had been shown to reduce mortality by 20 percent each.

He said women often presented with different symptoms to men and may have different complications.

"Only 50 percent of women have the classic crushing chest pain, elephant on the chest, symptom.

"They may have shortness of breath, they may be just sweating or dizzy, or ... have fatigue.

"So I think we need to have a low threshold for recognising symptoms and I think women should be treated the same as men in respect of having their risk factors assessed at 45, rather than at 55."

In New Zealand, a study known as the ANZAC study is currently being undertaken at the country's 20 district health board's, and has been running for about 6 years.

It looks at differences between men and women, death rates and treatments, but it will be a couple of years before it is published.

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