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October 1, 2015

Unbreak My Heart - Do Women and Men Recover Differently from Heart Attacks?

Every year, nearly 1.2 million heart attacks happen in the United States. Understanding the differences between men and women may play an increasing role in diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. Advances in medicine are making medical care more personalized. How can we better understand these differences in order to find the best treatments for both sexes?

Recently, medical claims from more than 43.5 million Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members were analyzed to compare heart attack rates and treatment patterns between women and men. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is releasing a unique study, “Identifying Disparities in Post Heart Attack Treatment between Women and Men this week in support of World Heart Day on Tuesday, Sept. 29. The study examines real claims data from the largest collective insured population in the United States.

What did the study find?

  • Coronary heart disease occurs more frequently in men than women across all age groups.
  • But women have a higher rate of inpatient heart attack mortality than men. Women are more likely to die within one year of a heart attack, have another heart attack within six years and be disabled with heart failure within six years.
  • Women are receiving less aggressive treatments after a heart attack than are men, particularly for cardiac stents (PCI), angiography, and cardiac bypass (CABG).
  • Geography does play a part in heart attack rates, but not in the disparity between genders. States with higher than national average rates for physical inactivity, obesity and smoking have a higher rate of heart attack for both men and women.

What can you do?
Join the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) in efforts to promote World Heart Day this week. This annual event offers a time for people across the globe to take part in the world's biggest intervention against cardiovascular disease (CVD). World Heart Day encourages everyone to reduce cardiovascular risk, and promote a heart-healthy planet for those around us.

Tips to share: How can you fight heart disease?
Being informed and taking action are key steps toward fighting heart disease. Share these risk factors and heart-healthy tips.

Some risk factors you can’t change. Others you can. Some factors you can control include:

  • Whether you smoke
  • Managing cholesterol levels
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Increasing your physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Preventing or controlling diabetes

It’s never too early to fight back against heart disease. In fact, you can begin taking preventive measures against heart attacks as young as age 20. Here’s what you can do to improve your heart health starting today:

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products
  • Reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol
  • Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days per week
  • Work with your doctor to manage your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
  • Take steps to deal with stress such as exercising, getting six to eight hours of sleep per night, and spending time with people who bring you joy
  • Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women

How can you share a heart healthy message?
Post your Healthy Heart selfies (a photo of yourself making the shape of a heart with your hands) on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Or, help share the love of a healthy heart by sharing these tips on fighting heart disease on Facebook  and Twitter.


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an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.