Angina manifests as chest pain, heaviness, pressure or discomfort, and is triggered by deficiency in oxygen that is carried to the heart by the blood, mainly due to thickening and hence narrowing of coronary arteries. Exercise, cold or emotional stress can instigate an angina attack. The incidences of Angina is pronounced with older people, smokers and those who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or a family history of the disease.
Nearly 100,000 patients, aged between 45 and 89 were brought under the scanner by scientists, who felt that doctors should probe deeper into the investigation and diagnosis of such patients, who portray symptoms of angina.
University of London's, epidemiology and public health department's Professor Harry Hemingway, studied that nearly two women out of every 100 in the 45 and above, age group, portray angina as the first sign of heart disease. The study also pointed out the difficulty in diagnosing angina in women, which is not often substantiated by tests such as angiograms or treadmill exercise electrocardiograms, as in the case of men. The researchers also opined that angina in women is connected with higher mortality rates.
Prof Hemingway said: "For women, angina is a more significant public health problem than many doctors, or indeed the general public, realise. Women develop angina at a similarly high rate as men and the angina that women experience is not benign in terms of death rates. We need to understand why women are relatively protected from heart attack but not from angina, and ensure fair access to investigation and treatment services. Both for a doctor or a patient experiencing angina, if you decide not to do an investigation, particularly in women, you really have to ask why not."
Prof Peter Weissberg, the medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said: "As women tend to be protected from angina until after the menopause, it has traditionally been thought of as a predominantly male affliction.This study confirms that after the age of 45 years, women get as much angina as men but, worryingly, they tend to fare worse than men when they get it. It reinforces our view that women with angina should receive prompt and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk of suffering a heart attack."
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.