ATLANTA When it comes to matters of the heart, women should be treated more like men.
Among patients admitted to the hospital for a heart attack, women were far less likely than men to get angiography in which blood vessels are injected with dye so that blockages are visible on an X-ray, or angioplasty to clear blockages, a study found.
Women were about twice as likely as men to die within a month of a heart attack, the study said.
"This suggests that we could reduce mortality in female patients by using more invasive procedures," said Dr. Francois Schiele, chief cardiologist at the University Hospital of Besancon, France.
Schiele, who presented the research at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Atlanta, said women should be treated with all recommended strategies, including invasive ones.
Some earlier studies have also suggested that women have a higher risk of death after a heart attack than men, but it is unclear why. Biological differences might explain it, researchers said, but there were also substantial differences in the treatment regimens women received.
Researchers analyzed data from a registry that included more than 3,500 patients who were treated for heart attacks between January 2006 and December 2007.
The women, who made up almost one-third of the patients, were nine years older than the men on average and had more health problems.
In most major heart studies, the majority of patients have been men, leaving women an understudied population.
The French study, sponsored by European drugmakers including GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis, found women received fewer effective treatments for heart attack. Women were almost twice as likely to die during the initial hospital stay and during the following month.
Dr. Marcelo Di Carli, director of Cardiovascular Imaging at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, noted that the risk of death is higher in women with heart disease than in men and the women in this study were older and sicker in the first place.
Carli, who was not involved in this study, said he was not surprised by the findings, but noted that there is a growing awareness that women's heart attack symptoms are different from men's symptoms.
"Just about every major hospital in the United States has a program on women's health. Things are changing in a positive way because there's so much research," he said, adding that there is a recognition that women have different symptoms then men and sometimes no symptoms.
One important difference, he said, is that women tend to have problems in smaller blood vessels, rather than the main coronary arteries.
"This disease looks different in women," Carli added.
(Reporting by Debra Sherman and Bill Berkrot; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Gunna Dickson)