Women not equal when it comes to heart attack treatment

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Woman holding ornament heart.
The Heart Foundation is calling for more research and increased awareness amongst health professionals and the community following news that fewer women who suffer from heart attacks would die if they were given the same treatments as men.

“These findings are not just confined to Sweden as Australian women have lower survival rates after heart attacks when compared with men,” said Heart Foundation National Spokesperson on Women’s Health, Ms Julie Anne Mitchell.

“ Women are more likely to die from a repeat, second or third, heart attack than men, with women suffering from a 21 per cent death rate compared to 14 per cent for men."

Women admitted to hospital with heart disease are also less likely than men to have a number of heart-related procedures such as:

  • Coronary angiography (24 per 100 hospitalisations for women, 30 for men).

  • Echocardiography (5 per 100 hospitalisations for women, 6 for men).

  • Percutaneous coronary interventions – or stents (16 per 100 hospitalisations for women, 22 for men).

  • Bypass surgery (5 per 100 hospitalisations for women, 9 for men).

“Stereotypes persist, our community and some health professionals continue to see heart disease as a predominately male disease, but the fact is it doesn’t discriminate; heart disease affects both genders and we all need to do more to recognise heart disease in women,” said Ms Mitchell.

Ms Mitchell explained that signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women are more subtle and can be different to those experienced by men and only one in four women are aware of at least one of these symptoms.

“Women may not experience any chest pain as a warning sign. For some, they might experience jaw, shoulder, neck and back pain when having a heart attack. It’s also shocking that only one in two women are confident that they would know what to do or actions to take if they were having a heart attack.”

 The Heart Foundation encourages women to know the warning signs and call triple zero if they think they may be having a heart attack as it’s important to act quickly.



1. University of Leeds and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Sex Differences in Treatments, Relative Survival, and Excess Mortality Following Acute Myocardial Infarction: National Cohort Study Using the SWEDEHEART Registry.

2. Deloitte Access Economics, ACS in Perspective: The Importance of Secondary Prevention, 2011.

3. AIHW. National Hospital Morbidity Database 2012/13.



The Heart Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to fighting the single biggest killer of Australians – heart disease. For more than 50 years, it’s led the battle to save lives and improve the heart health of all Australians. Its sights are set on a world where people don’t suffer or die prematurely because of heart disease. Visit www.heartfoundation.org.au for further information.


FOR INTERVIEWS CONTACT: Alison Wares, Media and Communications Manager, Heart Foundation, 0478 313 656, alison.wares@heartfoundation.org.au