TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Asian-Americans are more likely to die in the hospital following a heart attack than whites, new research reveals, although this disparity was reduced over time in hospitals participating in a quality improvement program.
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In the study, doctors examined certain measures of care -- such as whether a patient was prescribed aspirin or ACE inhibitors (heart drugs) at the time of discharge -- on 107,403 Asian-American and white heart attack patients. The study encompassed five years, from 2003 to 2008.
Asian-Americans were less likely to be given aspirin or counseling on how to quit smoking after they left the hospital. They were also more likely than whites to receive lipid-lowering therapy.
The study also showed that Asian-Americans were nearly twice as likely as whites to die in the hospital following a heart attack.
However, as the quality of care improved for these patients, health disparities between the two groups decreased.
The statistics came from the database of the "Get With The Guidelines-Coronary Artery Disease" program developed by the American Heart Association. The study appears Jan. 10 in the AHA journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
The researchers said the difference in heart attack deaths could be due to Asian-Americans in the study being much older, with other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart failure and smoking. The health disparities could also be the result of language barriers or other cultural differences, they said in the release.
After taking these additional risk factors into account, the study found the differences in death rates between whites and Asian-Americans were still reduced under the quality improvement program.
"This improved care is more significant and sustainable the longer hospitals participate in the program," study leader Dr. Feng Qian, a research assistant professor in the anesthesiology department at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said in the AHA release.
"Health disparities are a serious public health concern in the United States and we've seen that different racial and ethnic groups often receive unequal treatment for the same diagnosis," Qian said. "For that reason, different ethnic and racial groups may have different outcomes. Future studies should look more specifically at differences in care among racial subgroups as well as at more long-term outcomes."
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Jan. 7, 2012