Women have been shown to be more likely to die than men when they have a heart attack. When a woman arrives at a hospital with a heart attack she is not treated as aggressively as a man. This may be because women do not always have chest pain – the cardinal sign of a heart attack.
A recent study presented at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine conference (May 2009) found that even women with chest pain do not receive the same treatment as men from ambulance personnel. Over 680 patients with chest pain transported by EMS (ambulance and paramedics) to several Philadelphia hospitals were studied. Women were less likely to receive aspirin, nitroglycerin, or an intravenous line by ambulance providers where they presented with chest pain. These are standard life saving procedures for any patient with chest pain/heart attack. In fact, none of the women with a heart attack received aspirin by EMS providers before hospital arrival. Chewable aspirin should be administered at the onset of a heart attack to help decrease the amount of heart muscle damage and improve survival.
This is a surprising finding since ambulance care is supposed to follow a specific protocol; gender should not be a determining factor. Ambulance personnel need to become familiar with the atypical heart attack symptoms women exhibit (chest discomfort, shoulder blade pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and overwhelming fatigue). Women also need to learn these atypical symptoms and state they think they may be having a heart attack.
This was a small study only performed in one state but should increase awareness among other EMS providers.
“Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” available at www.heart-strong.com