Women who experience heart attacks are more likely than men to die within one year of the episode and be disabled due to heart failure within six years, according to an analysis released Tuesday from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
The disparity shows that even though more attention has been placed on the impact of the disease on women, more needs to be done. The report proposes additional examination of treatment patterns, understanding of social determinants of heart health and funding for women's heart research.
Women receive significantly fewer aggressive treatments after a heart attack than men despite the fact that a greater percentage of women die from the events, explained Dr. Trent Haywood, chief medical officer for the Blues.
The report does not outline the reasons for that gap, but Haywood says gender differences will play a greater role as healthcare moves toward an era of personalized or precision medicine, which uses genomics to tailor treatments to the individual.
The report is based on 2014 Blues Cross and Blue Shield claims data, which contains more than 43 million records of commercially insured patients. The analysis found that fewer women, 0.73 out of every 1,000, experienced a heart attack compared to more than double the rates, 1.95 out of every 1,000, for men.
Heart attacks claim the lives of nearly 40% of women within a year of the attack compared to just over 20% of men. Women were also less likely than men to receive treatments such as angioplasties to open clogged arteries, coronary artery bypass surgery, or receive a diagnostic exam used to look for plaque in the blood vessels.
Heart disease remains a prevalent and expensive problem in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. An estimated 735,000 people have heart attacks each year, and of those, about 120,000 die.
The estimated annual cost for heart disease and stroke combined in 2011 was $320.1 billion, including $195.6 billion in direct costs, such as hospital services, physicians and medications. The disease costs more than any other diagnostic group, and remains the No. 1 killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined, the annual estimates found.