Illustrating the Heart Attack Mortality Rate in Women

We are constantly bombarded with alarming announcements about heart attack risks.  Many hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually in multiple ways  trying to avoid dying from a heart attack.

It is a bit shocking to actually see what the 10 year heart attack mortality risk looks like.  I don’t know what your reaction will be but my was, “Huh, wow, that’s not such a big deal.  Maybe I should just relax, live as healthily as possible and ignore all the medical screaming and shouting.

I have used the data table found on page 128 in the very readable, and useful book Know Your Chances by Woloshin, Schwartz and Welch.

About the illustration-

There are 100 women icons. The darker icons represent the number of 65 yr old nonsmoking women who will die of heart attack before they become 75 yrs old. (2.5 women in this group will die of heart attack in the next 10 yrs.)

Now let’s do the same sort of chart for a 100 women who smoke.  In this case, the data claims that 4.5 of these 65 yr old smokers will die of heart attack before the age of 75.

By the way, if you want to create a graphic of this nature, you can find the tool to do so at  http://understandinguncertainty.org/visualfraction

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  1. But, in the US there are many hundreds of women over 65, 220,000 to be precise.

    Imagine 220,000 of your charts with 100 women figures. That’s a lot of charts. And if 2.5 women in each chart will die of a heart attack, then we’re talking about 550,000 deaths over ten years, or 55,000 deaths per year.

    That’s roughly the number of American deaths in Vietnam, which understandable caused quite a stir.

    If even a small fraction of 55,000 deaths are preventable through smoking cessation, then it’s pretty reasonable to be concerned.

    Thanks for a provoking post!

  2. Carolyn Thomas

    I agree with Aaron’s assessment. Considering that most cardiologists maintain that up to 80% of heart disease is preventable (and not just through smoking cessation), these stats are even more alarming. As a heart attack survivor who barely escaped becoming one of those ‘darker icons’ in your chart (while in my 50s), I continue now to urge all women to identify and pro-actively address their cardiac risk factors – despite attempts like this to minimize the problem.




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