Women have a fatal heart attack more often than men. One reason for this is that the underlying diseases in women are more difficult to diagnose, explained Prof. Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, Director of the Institute for Gender Research (GIM) at Charité Berlin, on the occasion of the joint symposium "Gender Medicine" of the German Society for Gender-Specific Medicine and the GIM.
As with men, women are "the main reasons for a heart attack being overweight, diabetes and smoking," reports Prof. Regitz-Zagrosek. However, according to the expert, the women often show different symptoms in advance than male heart attack patients. This may make diagnosis significantly more difficult, which has an adverse effect on the patient's chance of survival.
Women with atypical heart attack symptoms With around 60,000 deaths each year, heart attacks are one of the most common causes of death in Germany. According to the director of the GIM, women are at particular risk. Because while men usually have the typical symptoms, such as a stinging in the chest and chest pain that can radiate into the back, shoulder, upper abdomen and arms, women increasingly show atypical symptoms such as fatigue, sweating and back pain. In some cases, jaw pain in women can also indicate a heart attack, explained Prof. Because of the extremely different symptoms that occur in women as a result of the heart attack, it is often difficult for the treating physicians to make the correct diagnosis, according to the director of the GIM .
Difficult diagnosis in heart attack patients In addition to the difficulties in diagnosing heart attack patients, problems often arise in the course of drug treatment after a heart attack, the expert explained. It is not uncommon for women to take the medication in too high a dose, since no gender-specific drug development is practiced, according to Prof. If there is no possibility of gender-specific dosing, the treating doctors should determine a dose taking into account the lower weight and the increased body fat percentage of the patients, explained the expert.
Preventing heart attacks through a healthy lifestyle It applies equally to men and women that the risk of a heart attack can be minimized through a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, lots of exercise or sport and no smoking. Typical previous illnesses, such as high blood pressure or coronary artery disease, can usually be avoided by a healthy lifestyle. If the first heart pain occurs, the damage to the organ is often already significantly advanced and irreversible. Here, the lifestyle change can only prevent a further deterioration in the state of health; restoration of full heart function can no longer be achieved. (fp)
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