Urgent heart warning for women

Each year in the United States, more than 500,000 people experience cardiac arrest. But only 15 percent of its victims survive.

In fact, cardiac arrests claim more lives each year than colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, influenza, pneumonia, automobile accidents, HIV, firearms, and house fires combined—making it one of the most lethal health problems in this country!

Worse yet, new research has found that one large group of people in particular has the worst outcomes by far.

I’ll tell you all about that important research in a moment. But first, let’s back up…

Improving care delivered during those “golden” minutes

I remember learning about the importance of emergency medical care delivered outside of a hospital setting from Dr. C. Gene Cayton, my colleague from the University of Pennsylvania. He often described how broadening the availability of this kind of on-site emergency care has actually been a major public health advancement.

Indeed, as Dr. Cayton explained, all of the specialized, high-tech, emergency room, medical care in the world won’t help if the patient doesn’t survive the initial few “golden” minutes after cardiac arrest and before getting to the hospital.

So, starting in the late 1960s and 1970s, many organizations started training a new kind of emergency medical technician (EMT) called a paramedic (EMT-P). These highly skilled technicians were trained to deliver specialized, life-saving, emergency medical care on-site.

At the same time, these organizations also looked for ways to improve their patient-transport systems. In fact, I remember when I was a child, the auto industry in Detroit had convinced municipalities around the country to use cramped, specially designed, “luxury” cars to transport victims to hospitals. (The same group convinced them to discontinue using electric trams and replace them with buses!) But these “luxury” cars left the emergency care workers with no room or facilities to function inside of the vehicle!

On the other hand, almost every town in America had a fire station, with well-equipped emergency vehicles and trained personnel who were ready to respond quickly in an emergency. So, it was a logical step to add emergency medical services to their duties.

It took a while for the idea to catch on. But now, fire stations across the country keep EMTs and paramedics on staff.

Of course, the final step in improving care during those “golden” minutes was to enlist the “man on the street” to fill in the gap until emergency workers arrived to the scene. So, we began training “civilians” to perform emergency resuscitation (CPR) for people who suffer a cardiac arrest and the Heimlich maneuver in cases where the airway is blocked, usually by ingested food.

But according to a new study, it appears that even with all of these improvements in delivering emergency care to those who need it, one large group of people in particular still has dismal odds when it comes to surviving cardiac arrest.

Women are 3x more likely to die

For this new study published in the European Heart Journal, researchers analyzed data on more than 5,700 cardiac arrests that occurred in the Netherlands, outside of a hospital setting, between 2006 and 2012.

It turns out, women were less likely than men to get help from bystanders, even when they were witnessed to collapse.

Specifically, researchers found that 74 percent of men were given help, while only 69 percent of women were helped.

Men were also more likely to survive those “golden minutes” and get to the hospital for needed care. In fact, 37 percent of men made it to the hospital alive, compared to 34 percent of women.

Overall, men who suffered cardiac arrest outside the hospital had a 20 percent chance of getting to the hospital, recovering, and being discharged from the hospital alive.

By comparison—only 12 percent of women achieved this outcome. (That’s almost 50 percent worse!)

And it seems there may be several reasons why women fare so much worse than men…

Cardiac arrest looks different in women

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops or goes into an irregular beat, which causes blood circulation to cease. This arrest deprives the brain (and other vital organs) from receiving oxygen and other critical nutrients.

Death occurs within minutes unless the heart can be restored back to a normal beat—which doctors accomplish by shocking the heart with a defibrillator.

But the arrested heart must be in a state that can respond to the emergency shocks—something doctors call a “shockable initial rhythm.”

If not in this state, the heart defibrillation simply will not work.

And the new study found that just 33 percent of women had a “shockable initial rhythm” when reached by emergency workers. By comparison, 52 percent of men were in this state.

So, why the large disparity?

Well, for one, bystanders are probably less likely to recognize when females suffer a cardiac arrest. Second, women themselves may not recognize the urgency of their own symptoms.

Indeed, men who suffer cardiac arrest tend to experience classic heart attack symptoms, such as chest pain. Whereas women experience vague, “masked” symptoms, such as fatigue, fainting, nausea, vomiting, and neck or jaw pain.

In turn, this delay in recognizing symptoms can lead to delays in calling emergency services and in providing CPR on the spot.

There has also been concern that in the era of pervasive political correctness, men are more reluctant to touch women, anywhere. And they’re particularly reluctant to touch their chest and mouth.

But this conditioned hesitation and reluctance from politically correct societal posturing may be contributing to deadly consequences for women…

Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on others or wait until you experience symptoms of cardiac arrest to do something about your own heart health. Solid science shows that diet, supplementation, mind-body approaches, and other lifestyle habits can help lower your risk of suffering a deadly cardiac arrest…without the use of harmful drugs. You can learn all about this drug-free approach in my Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. Click here to learn more or to sign up today!


“Women have lower chances than men to be resuscitated and survive out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.” European Heart Journal, 2019. 40(47): 3824–3834. doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehz297