Compared to Men, Women With Heart Failure from Ontario Have an Increased Risk of Death

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Women from Ontario that have heart failure are more likely to die than men, shows a five-year study, which was recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Dr. Louise Sun is one of the lead investigators of the study, a cardiac anesthesiologist and a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. According to her, people must know more about the findings of their study:

“There’s something that we’re doing right in men that we’re not doing right in women, so that’s why we really need to raise awareness of this.”

Higher Rate of Hospitalization and Mortality in Women With Heart Failure

Dr. Sun and colleague cardiologist Dr. Lisa Mielniczuk studied the data of over 90,000 patients that were diagnosed with heart failure, all living in Ontario and including some patients from Windsor.

The patients that were newly diagnosed with heart failure were then followed from 2009 to 2013. In one year since they were diagnosed, 16.8% (7,156) of women died, whereas 14.9% (7,138) of men died.

Both death rates increased over the years, but the mortality remained higher in women, said Dr. Mielniczuk:

“The mortality for heart failure for women is not improving, the survival is not improving to the same extent as with men. We didn’t expect to see such a marked gender difference.”

The study also saw a higher increase in women hospitalized in 2013: 98 women per 1,000, compared to 91 per 1,000 men.

Heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body. A person can experience signs like fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling in the legs. Heart attacks are usually why most patients over the age of 65 get to the hospital, but patients are not always diagnosed with heart failure.

“A Different Type of Heart Failure”

The study focused on the differences between women and men in Ontario and is the first one to look at patients that weren’t initially hospitalized, Dr. Sun explaining the following:

“Women have a different type of heart failure. The type of heart failure in women is harder to diagnose and harder to treat.”

She said that men come with heart failure after having a heart attack, an ultrasound showing that the heart is not normally pumping blood. In women, even if they didn’t have a heart attack, and the ultrasound shows that the function is normal, some of them have heart failure.

Dr. Sun thinks that the high rate of hospitalization or death is because women don’t get early diagnosis and sometimes shortness of breath is thought to be lung disease.

Cardiologist Dr. Kushal Dighe is the director of the Cardiac Cath Lab (Windsor Regional Hospital), explaining that heart failure is a disease that affects all humans:

“Probably as a society we don’t understand that women could have a heart attack as well or heart failure. We attribute this to be a men’s disease but that’s not true.”

He also points out that most women downplay their symptoms because they are too busy. He urges everyone who has shortness of breath or chest pain whenever they do physical work or walking to see a doctor.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere