Female STEMI patients wait 37 minutes longer than men to seek help

Women suffering ST-segment elevation MI (STEMI) wait on average 37 minutes longer than men to call for help, according to research published in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care.

A retrospective analysis led by Matthias R. Meyer, MD, of Triemli Hospital in Zurich, found that while patient delays in men decreased slightly between 2000 and 2016, women didn’t see the same improvement, experiencing an average of 12 percent greater total ischemic time.

Meyer and colleagues included 967 women and 3,393 men diagnosed with acute STEMI in their study population, all of whom were treated at Triemli, the second-largest PCI center in Switzerland. They considered changes in patient delay, defined as the time from a patient’s symptom onset to their contact with a hospital, as well as system delay, defined as the subsequent time until that patient’s blocked vessel is reopened or stented.

Over the 16-year period, the authors said they identified no gender difference in timely care delivery by health professionals, with both men and women receiving stents sooner than they did in the past. But mortality was higher in women than in men—5.9 percent compared to 4.5 percent—and women waited approximately 37 minutes longer than men before contacting medical services.

“Women having a heart attack seem to be less likely than men to attribute their symptoms to a condition that requires urgent treatment,” Meyer said in a release, noting women might wait longer to seek help due to the myth that heart attacks are a “man’s problem.”

“Women and men have a similar amount of pain during a heart attack, but the location may be different,” he said. “People with pain in the chest and left arm are more likely to think it’s a heart attack, and these are usual symptoms for men. Women often have back, shoulder or stomach pain.”