Report: Women have fewer procedures after heart attack than men

Amid a growing body of research on heart health devices and blood pressure monitoring, a new report from Blue Cross Blue Shield shows that women undergo fewer diagnostic procedures and treatments following a heart attack than men.

BCBS' Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and health intelligence company Blue Health Intelligence sifted through BCBS' 2014 claims data on 43 million members, focusing on individuals between ages 18 and 64. The company found that women are 27% less likely than men to receive angioplasties to open clogged arteries after a heart attack. And women are 38% less likely than men to undergo coronary bypass surgery and about 5% less likely to get coronary angiography, an X-ray examination of blood vessels, the company said in a statement.

The numbers "demonstrate the need for additional research," CMO for BCBSA Trent Haywood said in a statement, and signal a potential disparity in care. Men suffer more heart attacks than women, the company pointed out in its report. But women are still more likely than men to die within one year of a heart attack or have another attack within 6 years.

Paula Johnson

"Women's hearts are under-researched, under-treated and get misdiagnosed far more often than our male counterparts--facts further underscored by The Health of America Report," Dr. Paula Johnson, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Connors Center for Women's Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a statement. "With heart disease as the leading cause of death among women in the U.S., more research to understand the sex differences in heart disease in order to diagnose and treat women's unique hearts should be a national priority."

The findings also come as researchers and med tech companies look at innovative techniques to reduce rates of heart disease and death in the U.S. Earlier this month, the U.S. National Institutes of Health unveiled results from a study which found that maintaining a systolic blood pressure at a lower level could improve outcomes for older adults who also have high blood pressure and are at risk for heart disease.

"This study provides potentially lifesaving information that will be useful to health care providers as they consider the best treatment options for some of their patients, particularly those over the age of 50," Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the primary sponsor of SPRINT, said in a statement. "We look forward to quickly communicating the results to help inform patient care and the future development of evidence-based clinical guidelines."

- read the statement

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