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Jun 03, 2014 12:22 PM EDT

Women More Likely Than Men To Have Poorer Mental, Physical Functioning After Heart Attack

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Women age 55 or younger may fare worse than their male counterparts after a heart attack, according to a recent study HealthDay News reported.

New researcher presented at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2014 suggests that women were more likely than men to have poorer mental and physical functioning, lower quality of life, more chest pain and worse physical limitations one year after their heart attack.

"Previous studies show young women have a greater burden of pre-existing risk factors," Rachel P. Dreyer, the study's first author and a post-doctoral research associate in cardiovascular medicine at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., said in a statement. "These factors have shown to be more strongly associated with adverse outcomes in women than men."

For the study, the research team studied records and interviews of more than 3,000 people who had heart attacks in the United States and Spain between 2008 and 2012. They looked at how theses participants fared a year after suffering an initial heart attack.

Although researchers can only speculate on the reasons for these results, they are "definitely finding that women are generally already in worse health than men when their heart attack takes place," Dreyer told HealthDay News.

"We're talking about relatively young patients, so the finding is really disturbing and worrying," Dreyer said.

She added that women's poorer health outcomes may be due to a range of socio-demographic, clinical and biological causes, such as undetected chest pain, problems with access to care and increase in work/life responsibilities impacting their health.

"Our results can be important in developing treatments specifically designed to improve young women's recovery after a heart attack." Dreyer said. "We need to identify women at higher risk as well as think about care after they are discharged."

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