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Heart disease is traditionally thought of as a man’s disease. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different from the misconception. The truth is that not only is heart disease the number one killer in the United States, but it’s an equal opportunity disease that kills women with equal vigor to men. Depending on who you talk to, death rates from heart disease in women range from almost half of all heart disease deaths (ABC News Report 1) to tipping the scales and killing more women than men (US News 1). Regardless of which report is more accurate, it seems apparent that heart disease is no longer a “man’s disease".
With heart disease on the rise in women, the question is whether or not women are receiving the same care as men when it comes to heart health. According a May, 2011 report by Health Grades, the answer is a resounding “no.” Health Grades is an independent company that provides information to consumers on physicians and hospital quality outcomes. From 2007 to 2009, Health Grade examined patient records from more than five million Medicare patients. They specifically examined women records focusing on 16 common diagnoses and procedures. (Health Grades 1.)
Unfortunately for women, Health Grades found that heart disease is an equal opportunity disease, but not all treatment options were gender-blind. Health Grades reported as follows:
• Life-saving surgical interventions: 50 percent of men received such treatments compared with only 33 percent of women
• Thirty percent higher death rate in women undergoing heart surgery or angioplasty (Health Grades 2.)
The report also indicated that not all hospitals have the same quality of care, either in diagnoses or treatment options, when it comes to their female patients. Those differences, according to Health Grade, can mean the difference between life and death. For example, the Health Grade report found that in hospitals identified as Women’s Health Excellence Award hospitals – those hospitals that have outstanding programs for diagnoses and treatment of women – mortality rates in women were 42 percent less than in lower performing hospitals. (Health Grades 3.)