Study: Women have better chance of surviving heart attacks when treated by female doctors

Posted at 1:52 PM, Aug 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-08 17:32:24-04

Here’s a jarring new study that’s surely going to ruffle some feathers.  It suggests that women are more likely to survive a heart attack if they’re treated by woman doctors. 

Question: What are the details and how did the researchers come to this conclusion?

It’s certainly a shocking headline but I wanted to look closely at this study because the reality is cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of women.  So what the researchers did was to analysis the survival rates of over 580,000 heart attack patients that were admitted to various emergency rooms in Florida.  And yes they found that women had a better chance of surviving if they were treated by female emergency department physicians instead of male physicians.  But they also found that male doctors who have spent more time with women and also treated more women also had higher success rates. 

Question:  So what is the take-home message for women?

My take-home message for women is to advocate for yourself and to be your own health hero.  And to do that means you need to know your body as well as the signs of a heart attack.   That way if you do end up at the emergency room, you can effectively communicate with the emergency personnel and that will go a long way in getting the appropriate evaluation and treatment you may need.  Now this study does have some limitations.  The data was taken only from Florida hospitals and between 1991 and 2010.  And since the early 2000s, there’s been a real push to raise awareness about heart attacks in women.  So it’s quite possible that the study could have had a different conclusion if the researchers had more recent data. 

Question:  I think your take-home message is key, so let’s go over what are the heart attack signs women should look out for?

Knowing the signs is crucial as every 40 seconds, someone in the US has a heart attack.  So women need to pay attention to symptoms like pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest.  And this does not have to be severe, women can have heart attacks without chest pain.  Other signs are pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, arm or shoulder; shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, lightheadedness and unusual fatigue.