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Why is heart disease in women still so often misdiagnosed?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2016 | Failure To Diagnose

Heart disease is the greatest killer of women in this country. More women die from heart disease than all cancers combined. As we near the end of American Heart Month, this is a good time to discuss the continued misdiagnosis of heart disease and heart attacks in women. This misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose heart problems in women too often proves fatal.

More focus has been placed on heart disease in women in recent decades. Nonetheless, centuries-old beliefs still persist to some degree.

Too many physicians still fail to diagnose or even consider potentially fatal heart problems in women. Further, women themselves often don’t recognize when there’s a real problem. Even some of those who do say that convincing their physician that something is truly wrong can be a struggle.

Incorrect beliefs about heart disease persisted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It used to be associated with ambitious, hard-driving people whose lives were filled with stress — characteristics associated with men. Only in the mid-20th century did doctors begin to link the impact of diet and exercise on the heart. However, as late as the 1990s, some studies on heart disease still included only male subjects.

One major reason that heart disease is less likely to be recognized in women than men is that the symptoms are often different. Men are more likely to have the “typical” signs of a heart attack like chest pains, For women, the symptoms can present throughout their upper body, including their jaw, neck, back, shoulders and arms. Often women who are experiencing a heart attack are nauseous or mistake their symptoms for indigestion.

It’s essential for everyone to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of a heart attack so that you can recognize one in yourself or others. If there’s a history of heart disease in your family or if you are in a high-risk category, it may be a good idea to have some basic diagnostic tests done so that any underlying issues can be treated before they become life-threatening.

If you have lost a loved one to a heart attack that wasn’t correctly diagnosed by his or her physician, it’s worthwhile to explore your legal options in New Jersey. A medical malpractice attorney can determine whether the doctor or other medical personnel should have performed tests or taken other action that could have saved your loved one’s life.

Source: The Atlantic, “Why Doctors Still Misunderstand Heart Disease in Women,” Vidhi Doshi, accessed Feb. 24, 2016

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