So who survives heart attacks more, men or women?

It’s a question that I usually ask on our First Aid at Work Courses. Most of the time people think that women would survive more. They are wrong.

Men do have more heart attacks than women and they start to have them at a younger age but there are lots of reasons that women don’t fair as well.

Unaware: Women often delay seeking medical help, which can reduce their chance of survival. When reviewed it was found that the average delay between the onset of symptoms and arrival at hospital for men ranges between 1 hour 24 minutes and 3 hours 30 minutes compared to between 1 hour 48 minutes and 7 hours 12 minutes for women. We hate the generalise but women do tend to ‘just get on with it’ when they aren’t feeling well.

Research has shown that women are 50 per cent more likely to receive a wrong initial diagnosis when they are having a heart attack. Both men and women who are initially misdiagnosed have a 70 per cent higher risk of dying.  The signs and symptoms can be different between men and women – the most well known ones are the ‘typical’ male ones.

Excess risk: Risk factors for heart disease are often more deadly for women. Smoking increases women’s heart attack risk up to twice as much as men’s, high blood pressure increases women’s risk 80 per cent more, and type 2 diabetes increases women’s risk 50 per cent more.

As always education can help reduce this gap, if we can raise awareness of the issue it can be addressed.

What should you do if you suspect someone is having a heart attack?

Call 999 – this is a medical emergency so we need the casualty to get to hospital asap!

Get them in a comfortable, safe position. We use the ‘W’ position which is them sitting on the floor, against a wall, knees bent up with feet on the floor. This takes the pressure off the heart and sitting upright makes it easier for them to breathe.

Undo any tight clothing to make breathing easier

Give them 300mg of soluble Aspirin if they are ok to take it. This is a blood thiner – an Antiplatelet that stops the blood cells from sticking together.

Keep them calm and reassure them. The less they panic the less strain there is on the heart.

Think about the possibility that this could get worse. Is there a defibrillator around, can we get it ready? We don’t show this or discuss it with them. We don’t want to alarm them but it might be needed.

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