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The Gender Gap in Cardiac Arrest Treatment

When cardiac arrest strikes, immediate action can make the difference between life and death. But women may be less likely than men to receive potentially lifesaving emergency procedures in the hospital, a large national study has found.

The study, published in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, combed through records from over 1 million cardiac arrest victims who made it to the hospital alive. It found that women were 19 to 29 percent less likely than men to receive certain procedures: coronary angiography and angioplasty to find out whether a heart attack caused the cardiac arrest, then open up any artery blockages; and therapeutic hypothermia, which lowers the body temperature to help boost a patient’s survival odds and limit brain damage.

The reasons for the disparity are not clear. One possibility: With women, it can be more difficult to know whether a heart attack triggered the cardiac arrest. They are less likely to have “classic” heart attack symptoms like chest pain, for example.

Ultimately, the odds of surviving cardiac arrest mainly depend on quick action. Make sure your family members know how to recognize cardiac arrest and how to respond—by calling 911 and performing chest compressions, if you do not have a pulse and are unconscious, until emergency help arrives.

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