Women are more likely to die from a heart attack if they have a male doctor, according to a new study

woman at doctor's office

  • Women are more likely to die from a heart attack if they’re treated by a male doctor, and more likely to survive if they’re treated by a female doctor, according to a new study.
  • The study, published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at data from more than 500,000 heart attack patients in Florida hospitals.
  • The study couldn’t determine the reason for this gap, but it’s good to remember that women may have different heart attack symptoms than men. 

 

Women who have heart attacks are more likely to die if their emergency room doctor is male, but more likely to live if their doctor is female, according to a new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

The study analyzed records from more than 500,000 heart attack patients admitted to hospitals in Florida between 1991 and 2010. The authors looked at each patient’s outcome and used doctors‘ names to infer their gender. (Doctors with gender-ambiguous names were eliminated.)

The data showed that:

  • Overall, 11.9% of patients died because of their heart attack
  • Women treated by female doctors had higher survival rates than women treated by male doctors
  • When under the care of a female doctor, both men and women had similar outcomes
  • Women treated by male doctors were 1.52% less likely to survive, compared to women treated by women

That shift might seem small, but it’s still notable. If the survival rate for women treated by men was the same as the rate for women treated by women, 1,500 to 3,000 fewer women would have died in this sample, study co-author Seth Carnahan told Gizmodo. 

woman doctor blood pressure

Even more fascinating: The study found that women had better outcomes if the hospital’s emergency department had a higher percentage of female doctors. Male doctors with more female colleagues also gave more effective treatment to female patients.

Existing evidence already suggests that women are less likely to survive heart attacks than men, and there are a few theories as to why. They be likely to delay treatment or could be tougher to diagnose, the authors wrote in the study. Women also tend to have heart attacks at  older ages, as Gizmodo pointed out. 

Matching or mismatching patient and doctor gender may be another factor that helps explain this survival gap, the authors added. 

chest pain workout

This particular study could only look back on data — it couldn’t determine the reason(s) why female patients fared worse with male doctors in this group of Florida patients. But co-author Brad Greenwoodan associate professor of information and decision sciences at the University of Minnesota, told INSIDER via email that there are still some key takeaways. 

„The most important thing that readers might want to take from our study is the difference in heart attack symptoms across men and women,“ he said.
Chest pain and discomfort are the most common heart attack signs for both men and women. But women are more likely to experience symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, unusual tiredness, and pain in the back, shoulders, and jaw, according to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. 
Greenwood added that, while the study highlights the importance of diversity among doctors, he is „hesitant“ to say that women should outright avoid male physicians.
„The distribution of physician quality is huge, so simply casting male physicians as ‚bad‘ or female physicians as ‚good‘ can get us in hot water,“ he said. „Patients should, by all means, make sure that they are being taken seriously and being strong self advocates (or making sure they have someone to advocate for them on their behalf).“

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Source: Business insider

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