A surge in the number of women having heart attacks and stroke is further proof that they are not simply problems for men, says a charity that is calling for greater awareness of female patient needs.
Analysis of hospital data by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has revealed the number of hospital visits by women with cardiovascular disease in England continues to rise.
“Women are not immune to heart diseases and there is a need for more awareness”
Figures compiled by the charity show the number of women attending hospital with cardiovascular problems – including heart disease and stroke – hit 642,000 in 2015-16.
This is an increase of 93,000 on the number of visits recorded 10 years ago, according to the BHF’s calculations, and represents a 50% increase in the past 20 years.
While there have been similar increases in hospital visits by men, recent research suggests female heart patients may not always get optimum care.
The charity highlighted a study by Leeds University that found women had a 50% higher chance than men of getting the wrong initial diagnosis following a heart attack, affecting survival chances.
The BHF said the rise in hospital visits – which include emergency admissions, day cases and consultant care all linked to heart problems – is partly down to the population getting older and becoming more at risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and heart rhythm problems.
Spike in hospital visits by women with cardiovascular disease
However, the charity said its analysis showed it was vital to dispel the lingering notion that cardiovascular conditions were “a man’s disease”, with around 78,000 women dying from heart attacks and stroke each year.
BHF medical director Professor Sir Nilesh Samani said the figures demonstrated that women were not “immune to heart diseases” and it was vital to get the message across to ensure they got the best care.
“These figures reveal the high and growing burden of heart and circulatory disease on the NHS,” he said. “They specifically highlight that women are not immune to heart diseases and there is a need for more awareness so they receive better and prompt care.”
He added that there was also a need for more research to understand the impact of heart disease and help develop new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat it, and thus “save and improve lives”.