Heartening news for equality

July 5, 1996

Men and women have the same survival rate from heart attacks, according to a study of coronary heart disease. The findings refute the belief that women are more likely to die.

Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe, director of Dundee University's cardiovascular epidemiology unit, has headed research on heart disease trends in Glasgow which has revealed that while women are more prone to die in hospital, men have a greater tendency to die suddenly before reaching hospital.

The project is part of the World Health Organisation's Monica project, a ten-year study of heart disease and risk factors in 21 countries. It investigated all heart attacks in men and women under 65 in north Glasgow over seven years, almost 4,000 heart attacks in men and more than 1,500 in women.

Professor Tunstall-Pedoe said: "Earlier studies have questioned what was wrong with women for dying in hospitals more often, but those studies were of hospital cases only. By studying all cases, we have now shown that there is also something wrong with men as they are more likely than women to drop dead outside."

The study found that the death rate was 50 per cent for both men and women, including deaths before and after arrival in hospital and up to 28 days after the attack.

Most people died outside hospital, but while this accounted for 74 per cent of deaths in men, it was only 68 per cent in women. Death rates in women admitted to hospital were 14 per cent higher than those for men, and 22 per cent higher for those admitted to coronary care units.

Women took slightly longer on average to reach hospital, because they preferred to call their GP first, while men were more likely to go directly to hospital.

Professor Tunstall-Pedoe found that women who suffered heart attacks tended to be older than the men. They were far more often widowed, more often living alone and more socially deprived than men.

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