A recent study by the Barbados National Registry has found that mortality rates for heart attacks are higher among women than men.
The survey was conducted between 2010 and 2014 using a sample of 819 patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
Dr Kim Quimby, Lecturer in Immunology at the Chronic Disease Research Centre told a recent health conference at the Sir Henry Fraser Lecture Theatre of the UWI Cave Hill Campus that 31 per cent of women died, compared to 24 per cent of men.
“The males tend to be on average five years younger than the females – 64 years versus 69 or 70 years old,” Dr Quimby said.
According to her, the global fatality rate for heart attacks, or Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI), is 12 per cent. The rate at the QEH is more than twice that – 27 per cent – and Dr Quimby said there was a need to investigate why the rate is so high.
Just over a third of all patients were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and more women died.
Dr Quimby said the survey also raised some concern over the level of documentation when dealing with heart attack patients.
Three quarters of the men and 65 per cent of the women had aspirin documented in their notes. Documentation for oxygen was even poorer, she said, with just over 50 per cent of males and females having documented in their notes that they received oxygen in their first 24 hours.
“In 2010, they had 85 per cent of patients document that they had aspirin and that declined to 60 per cent by 2014. Again, in 2010, 80 per cent of patients had documented that they had oxygen and this would decline to 36 per cent by 2014. So the documentation process is becoming poorer. This doesn’t mean they’re not getting it, it just means it has not been documented,” Dr Quimby noted.
In the case of serious heart attacks, or STEMIs (ST Segment Elevated Myocardial Infarction), 43 per cent of patients surveyed had suffered one.
“Half the males had a STEMI compared to just about a third of the females . . . . Ten per cent of males died compared to 22 per cent of females, and now this is statistically significant. So more females are dying than males from these STEMIs.”
Dr Quimby also noted that there is need for patients to be more educated, as some individuals were taking up to four hours to seek treatment at the Accident & Emergency Department after their symptoms begin.
Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, pain in other parts of the body, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, a sense of anxiety, and coughing or wheezing.
Doctors advise patients to seek medical attention as soon as possible once these symptoms appear.
They also advocate lifestyle changes to minimize the risk of a heart attack, including eating a healthy, balanced diet; exercising regularly; reducing stress; lowering blood pressure; limiting alcohol use; and no smoking.