Poor women suffer heart attacks almost six years earlier than rich women, a new study has revealed.
Scientists behind the research say women on low incomes lack the health choices and lifestyle care available to their richer neighbours.
Researchers at the Austrian Academy of Sciences studied the socio-economic background of cardiovascular patients in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
They discovered that poorer people suffered heart attacks sooner in life than wealthier people and that this was even more pronounced in women.
The academy said in a statement: “Eating a balanced diet, avoiding stress, getting plenty of exercise and also keeping an eye on your blood pressure: if you live this healthily, you can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“But not everyone can take care of it to the same extent.
“For example, people who have a low income often have problems eating healthily in the long term.
“They also often live in districts where the medical infrastructure is not so good, for example because there are fewer internists.”
The experts looked at how a person’s lifestyle – as well as their social environment- influences their health.
Together with colleagues from the University of Vienna, Vienna General Hospital and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), they wanted to find out whether heart attack patients from the poorer districts of Vienna died earlier than those from wealthier districts.
The study was designed to link hospital-based observational data from heart attack patients with information on the socio-economic environment and the death register.
This enabled the scientists to examine the survival rates over the course of 19 years, from 2000 to 2018.
In total, the data of 1,481 heart attack patients, including women and men between the ages of 24 and 94, were included.
They found that people who live in poorer counties have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack earlier.
Sonja Spitzer, the lead author of the study, from the Institute for Demography at University of Vienna, said: “We were not able to determine that people die from heart attacks at different rates between the different districts of Vienna, but our data indicate that people from poorer districts suffer a heart attack earlier in life.”
The study found women from wealthier districts suffer a heart attack at an average age of 70.2.
But women from poorer districts suffer a heart attack much earlier, at an average age of 64.6 years.
In men, the difference appeared to be smaller, with an average age of 60.2 in wealthier areas versus 57.3 in poorer neighbourhoods.
Vanessa Di Lego, demographer and co-author of the study, said: “The fact that people from poorer districts suffer a heart attack earlier in life is worrying and should continue to be considered scientifically and in terms of health policy.
“Above all, there should be more emphasis on health care and health literacy.”
The statement added: “Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death in Austria.
“Current data from Statistics Austria show that 15.9 percent of all male and 13.4 percent of all female deaths die from coronary heart disease.
“Coronary heart diseases are serious diseases of the heart that lead to circulatory disorders in the heart muscle. The reason is narrowed coronary arteries.
“What is worrying is that women actually have a longer life expectancy and therefore a survival advantage.”
The study has been published in the July edition of the academic journal BMJ Open under the title ‘Socio-economic environment and survival in patients after ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI): A longitudinal study for the City of Vienna’.
It was authored by Sonja Spitzer, Vanessa di Lego, Michael Kuhn, Christian Roth and Rudolf Berger.