A heart attack takes more years from the life expectancy of a woman than a man, researchers have found.
Scientists say that the findings could be linked to a difference in the quality of care patients receive.
White female heart attack patients have their lives shortened by an average of ten years, the study of 147,000 patients found.
White men, in comparison, lose just 5.1 years, according to researchers led by the Yale School of Medicine in the United States.
Black people - whether male or female - also have more years slashed from their life expectancy after a heart attack than white patients, according to the study.
Previously doctors thought that men and women had roughly similar prospects after a heart attack.
But this research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is the first to take into account women's longer average life expectancy.
As they are usually expected to live longer, a woman would have lost more potential years of life than a man who died at the same age as she did.
Yale researcher Harlan Krumholz said: "It is imperative that we understand whether disparities we observe in a specific group, like people with heart attacks, is particular to them or more broadly reflective of the experience in the population. We found that women and black patients are losing more years of their life after a heart attack, with one of the reasons potentially being they are not receiving care on par with men and white patients.
"The study makes clear the disadvantage of these groups and suggests higher quality of care for everyone might be a helpful remedy."
The team analysed the health records of 146,743 patients who had heart attacks in the mid-1990s. Patients were tracked over the next 17 years and the survival rate for each group assessed.
Women and black patients had a higher prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure than white men. The overall survival rate was 8.3 per cent for white men, 6.4 per cent for white women, 5.4 per cent for black men and 5.8 per cent for black women.
But when adjusting for differences in expected survival, women lost significantly more years of life than men. The researchers estimated that, on average, a 65-year-old white man loses 5.1 years of life after a heart attack and a white woman loses ten years, translating to a 29 per cent reduction in remaining life for men and a 41 per cent reduction for women.
Co-author Emily Bucholz, of Boston Children's Hospital, said: "Recognising that women in the general population live longer than men, we asked the question of whether women who have a heart attack are actually at a survival disadvantage because they are losing more years of life after the event than men."
Black men lost four more months than white men, while black women lost a year more of life than white women.
Overall black patients lost 5 per cent more of their expected life span than white patients.
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said last night: "This US study shows that gender and race could affect a patient's life expectancy after suffering a heart attack, and emphasises the importance of appropriate care following such an event.
"This includes taking medicines as prescribed, focusing on the risk factors that contribute to heart disease such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and attending a cardiac rehabilitation programme to raise awareness of how to live with a heart condition.
"Further research is needed to establish why some population groups may have a shorter life expectancy and whether this correlates to the UK population."
- Daily Mail