Women more likely to die of heart attack with a male doctor

Study scientist warns of a ‘glass ceiling on life’ when it comes to cardiovascular disease

A doctor

Women who suffer a heart attack have a higher chance of survival if they are treated by a female doctor, according to a US study.

Researchers used data from 580,000 heart attack cases recorded at Florida hospitals between 1991 and 2010 and examined patient outcomes.

They found that 13.3% of female patients seen by a male physician died, compared with 12% of women treated by another woman.

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“Their chances were also improved if treated by a male doctor who had a lot of female colleagues in his team,” the BBC reports.

Survival rates for male heart attack also rose under the care of female doctors, although by a smaller proportion.

Study co-author Seth Carnahan, from St Louis’ Washington University told the BBC that the findings were in keeping with past research suggesting that female doctors are linked to better patient outcomes than male doctors.

However, he said, the “novel” part of the new study was its conclusion that the difference was “particularly stark” for female patients.

Despite the fact that, according to the British Heart Foundation, heart disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer, the medical research community historically looked at heart attacks as a “male” disease.

The comparative lack of research means that “male physicians might not pick up on the atypical presentation symptoms women more often show, or at least not to the degree that female physicians do”, the study’s lead author, Brad Greenwood, told CNN.

“When someone is suffering from a heart attack, you might expect that there would be no gender differences because every physician will go in trying to save their patient’s life,” said Laura Huang, a psychology professor at Harvard Business School and another of the study’s co-authors.

“But even here, we see a glass ceiling on life.”

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