While many believe heart disease is a condition that mostly men suffer from, around the same amount of men and women die each year as a result of heart disease in the United States. A study at presented to the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2014 revealed that women under the age of 55 are more likely to suffer from negative health outcomes following a heart attack compared to men.

"Previous studies show young women have a greater burden of pre-existing risk factors," Dr. Rachel P. Dreyer, a post-doctoral research associate in cardiovascular medicine at Yale School of Medicine, said in a statement. "These factors have shown to be more strongly associated with adverse outcomes in women than men.”

Dreyer and her colleagues analyzed the medical records and conducted interviews on 3,501 people who had suffered heart attacks in the United States and Spain between 2008 and 2012, 67 percent of which were women. Data was gathered from the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes of Young AMI Patients (VIRGO) study.

Compared to men, women were more likely to suffer from poor physical functioning, poor mental functioning, low quality of life, chest pain, and worse physical limitations in the year following their heart attack. Negative health consequences experienced by women who have suffered a heart attack were attributed to socio-demographic, clinical, and biological causes, including undetected chest pain, health care access, and increases in work/life stress.

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

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one killer among both men and women. Around 64 percent of women who die suddenly as a result of coronary heart disease experience no previous symptoms. Shortness of breath, chest pressure, fatigue, and other symptoms of a heart attack are sometimes so mild in women they are chalked up to a non-life-threatening condition such as acid reflux or the flu.

Source: Strait K, Lichtman J, Dreyer R. Young women fare worse than young men after heart attack. American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions. 2014.