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Women Often More Unhealthy Than Men Before Heart Attacks

Update Date: May 15, 2013 04:16 PM EDT

Heart disease affects men more than women, but a new study reveals that young women tend to be less healthy than young men before heart attacks.

Researchers said that while women under 55 are far less likely to have heart attacks, women are more likely to have medical problems, poorer physical and mental health, chest pain and poorer quality of life in the month before their heart attacks.

Study author Rachel Dreyer, a research fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., surveyed 2,990 women and men from an international study of heart attack patients aged 18 to 55 years old. 

After conducting general health measures and questionnaires that assessed patients' chest pain and quality of life prior heart attacks, researchers found that women were often less healthy than similarly aged men before heart attacks.

The study found that women had significantly poorer physical and mental health with more physical limitations prior to their heart attacks than similar-aged men with heart attacks. 

Researchers also found that women were more likely than men to have other conditions associated with heart disease before experiencing a heart attack.  The study found that 40 percent of women had diabetes compared to 27 percent of men, 55 percent of women were obese compared to 48 percent of men, 6 percent of women had a history of stroke and heart failure compared to 3 percent and 2 percent of men.  The study also found that 13 percent of women suffered renal failure compared to 9 percent of men and 49 percent of women suffered depression compared to 24 percent of men.

Researchers said the latest findings show that young women are suffering more from their heart disease than young men before their heart attacks.

"We need to develop better methods for recognizing and treating young women with chest pain to optimize their quality of life and potentially even prevent a heart attack," Dreyer said in a news release.

"General health and disease-specific health status assessments are valuable tools for healthcare providers to measure the burden of disease on patients. These should be standardized into clinical practice, much like assessments for other traditional heart disease risk factors," she concluded.

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2013.

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