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Women's heart disease symptoms not taken as seriously as men's

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STOCKHOLM, Sept 4 (AFP) - Women showing heart disease symptoms are not treated with the same intensity as men, according to a Europe-wide study presented at a cardiology congress in Stockholm on Sunday.

The Euro Heart Survey, a joint European study based on examinations of 3, 779 patients across 32 European countries, revealed that women complaining of chest pains are generally taken less seriously and receive worse treatment than men.

The study showed that women with chest pains were 20 percent less likely than men to be given an stress test, which is the first step towards confirming a heart disease diagnosis and determining what kind of treatment is needed.

And even after accounting for fewer positive stress tests, they were 40 percent less likely than men to be referred for an angiography to determine whether they suffered from coronary obstruction. Once such a diagnosis was made, women were also less likely to receive life-prolonging therapies.

"Most alarmingly, during one-year follow up, women with angina who had proven coronary disease were twice as likely to die or suffer a heart attack as men with similar symptoms," according to the European Society of Cardiology study.

The survey did indicate some improvement in the treatment of women with heart disease symptoms between a first batch of patients examined in 2000 and a second group in 2004.

"This is a step in the right direction, but we must do more to make people aware of the fact that (heart disease) is just as big a problem for women as it is for men," head of the Swedish Cardiology Society Eva Swahn, who was not personally involved in the study, told AFP.

According to the European Society of Cardiology, cardiovascular disease kills more women in Europe than all cancers combined.

"Despite the fact that cardiovascular disease is the most frequent cause of death in women in Europe, and the cause of death in more women (55 percent) than men (43 percent), the perception remains that women form just a small 'subgroup' of the coronary disease population," according to the study.

"This study is a confirmation that we need to do more than just agree that there is a problem. Concrete measures are needed," Swahn insisted.



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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