“Looking at the factors that normally determine the outcome, such as age or an overly long wait before treatment, it is clear that gender also plays a major role – isn’t that strange?” asks professor Johan Herlitz.
What makes it even more surprising – and interesting – is that women’s circumstances generally make them less predisposed than men to survive cardiac arrest: they are more likely to be elderly and single.
“It was previously thought that cardiac arrest took longer to detect in women than men. Women would have slightly more diffuse symptoms that don’t present in the same way. We’ve also noticed that women who go to hospital with chest pains are not admitted to the cardiac ward as frequently as men.”
Oestrogen could be the key
It is still not totally clear why women tend to survive more often than men, though it could have something to do with the female hormone oestrogen.
“Giving oestrogen to cardiac arrest patients, primarily men but also women, has been considered,” says professor Herlitz. “There’s an 80% chance that a patient aged 55-60 who comes to hospital with chest pains will be a man. However, once you get up to 70-80, it starts to even out. We’re putting this down to the drop in women’s oestrogen levels as they get older.”
Text: Kristoffer Lidén
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