TUESDAY, Dec. 11, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Women often delay calling for emergency help when heart attack symptoms start, a new study finds.
Researchers in Switzerland found that women suffering a heart attack typically waited 37 minutes longer than men before calling an ambulance. And those delays showed no signs of improving over the 16-year study period.
One reason may be the persistent myth that heart attacks are a “man’s disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Matthias Meyer, a cardiologist at Triemli Hospital, in Zurich.
In addition, he said, women are more likely than men to suffer lesser-known heart symptoms, like pain in the back, shoulder or stomach. That means many women — and the people who witness their symptoms — may not immediately realize they should call for help, Meyer said.
Yet, the study found, even when women had the “classic” heart attack symptom of chest pain, they often hesitated to call for help.
And while the findings come from Switzerland, a similar pattern has been seen in other countries, too, according to Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association (AHA).
Steinbaum pointed to a recent research review finding that, overall, women waited 30 percent longer than men to call for help.
“That tells us this is a worldwide problem,” said Steinbaum, who directs the women’s cardiovascular prevention, health and wellness program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
She agreed with Meyer on the potential reasons, and also noted that many women are simply used to putting their families first, and their own health second. So even when they have symptoms like chest pain, she said, women may often take a “Let’s see what happens” attitude.
For the study, Meyer’s team analyzed records from nearly 4,400 heart attack patients treated at their hospital between 2000 and 2016.
The good news: Over the years, ambulance crews and hospital staff got patients into treatment faster, and the improvement was equal for women and men.
The bad news: By 2016, women were still spending 41 minutes longer in “ischemia” — a reduction in the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. And that was largely due to delays in calling emergency services, the researchers found.