Studying Sex, Gender, CPR and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Why do less people give women CPR than men?
Why do less people give women CPR than men?Photo: microgen/123RF

Two studies were recently done about heart attacks. In the first, they tried to find out if having sex increased the likelihood of having sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). They gathered information from a study in Oregon about what heart attack victims were doing just before an ambulance took them to a hospital. The results, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that having sex was no more likely to cause SCA than any other strenuous activity.

“Although sexual activity, as well as other physical exertion, may transiently slightly increase one’s risk of cardiac arrest, the overall long-term health benefits of exercise far outweigh the possible risks,” Dr. Aspo L. Aro of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles told The New York Times.

The other study was also interesting. The study, funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and done at the University of Pennsylvania, compared the outcomes of heart attack sufferers who received CPR after an attack versus those who never got CPR.

The outcomes with CPR—cardiopulmonary resuscitation—were dramatically better than without CPR. But oddly, according to U.S. News & World Report, CPR was slightly less likely to be done in public on women than on men. Looking further at that, they found the CPR was done equally on men and women in the home, but if the victim was in public and a woman, she got it much less often. According to some of the researchers, some people trained to do CPR may be shying away from performing it on a woman in public because of social mores about female chests. Thus the women had a higher incidence of death.

“A male chest is different from a female chest, and there may be barriers to CPR delivery in public,” said the study’s lead author, Audrey Blewer, in The New York Times.

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