Women are more likely than men to die within a year of having their first heart attack.

That sobering fact comes from a first-ever scientific statement issued by the American Heart Association on women and heart disease.

The report documents differences in symptoms and causes of heart attacks experienced by males and females that may contribute to women’s higher death rate. Twenty-six percent of women die within a year of having their first heart attack, compared to 19 percent of men.

Although chest pain is a common symptom for both genders, many women also experience less-common symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath, the researchers wrote.

Women also may have less blockages of blood flow than men, making their heart attack harder to diagnose.

Treatment after a heart attack also differs for men and women. Women are less likely to be prescribed medications such as statins and beta blockers known to prevent future heart attacks, the AHA said. They’re also less likely than men to receive a recommendation for cardiac rehabilitation.

There are signs that the gap is closing, researchers said, noting that in recent years, heart-disease-related deaths for women have declined significantly. But they stressed that both medical communities and the general public need more education and awareness about heart disease risks for women.

“Despite stunning improvements in cardiovascular mortality for women in the past two decades [coronary heart disease] remains understudied, underdiagnosed, and undertreated in women,” the AHA statement said.

 

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