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Women get second heart attack earlier than men do

Published: 14 February 2017

It is not uncommon that persons who have had heart attacks suffer from it again. New research from Luleå University of Technology shows a big difference in time when women and men have a second heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI).

– It differs 17 months in time between women and men, says Ulrica Strömbäck, who’s an ICU-specialist nurse and PhD student in Health Science at Luleå University of Technology.

Together with her supervisors Åsa Engström, Irene Vikman and Dan Lundblad, she is working on the research project "To Suffer a Second Heart Attack”.

The project includes cardiac patients in Norrbotten and Västerbotten in the so-called MONICA registry, where people aged 25-74 years who had one or more heart attack between 1985 and 2009 are registered.

1017 patients in the study

Ulrica Strömbäck’s study ”The second myocardial infarction: Higher risk factor burden and earlier second myocardial infarction in women compared to men” has recently been published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. Ulrica Strömbäck has studied 1017 patients – 775 men and 242 women – who between the years 1990 to 2009 have had at least two heart attacks. One of the things she has analysed is the time intervals between the first and the second myocardial infarction.

The result shows there’s a large gap between men and women:

  • 50 percent of the men who have suffered a second heart attack received it within 33 months after the first.
  • 50 percent of the women who have suffered a second heart attack received it within 16 months after the first.

– It is a very big difference. Women have a much shorter period of time between the first and second heart attack. Women are generally older when they have their first heart attack, and it may explain some of the difference but not all of it, says Ulrica Strömbäck.

Differences in the treatment

She says that previous research shows that there are differences in the care of women and men receive after a myocardial infarction.

– Women are less likely than men to be treated with PTCA (Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty). Women also don’t get drug treatment with beta blockers and blood thinners as often as men do. The significance of this is something that needs to be studied, says Ulrica Strömbäck.

The MONICA registry have three risk factors for heart attacks registered: diabetes, hypertension and smoking. Ulrica Strömbäck’s study shows that more women than men who get heart attacks have at least one of these three risk factors; 89 percent compared to 72 percent. The difference persists after a second heart attack.

– Women may need a different type of secondary prevention, and perhaps a more aggressive treatment of the risk factors for heart attacks. Patients need to be aware that a second heart attack may follow in a relatively short time after the first. They must get support to be able to quickly change their lifestyle.



Link to the study:

"The second myocardial infarction: Higher risk factor burden and EARLIER second myocardial infarction in women Compared to men: The Northern Sweden MONICA study":