Have you ever been misdiagnosed? It could have been for a minor illness, in which case, no lasting damage will likely be done, but what if the misdiagnosis was a major issue that your life depended on? Unfortunately, more women are at risk of this as new research has emerged that women are 50% “more likely” than men to be diagnosed incorrectly after they have had a heart attack (yes, the same pain has been compared to that of your menstrual cycle but, obviously it warrants far more concern).
The associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation called the disparity “alarmingly high.” Cardiologists said women were being let down because doctors wrongly dismissed those in danger as suffering from problems like indigestion, mild chest or neck pain; this is a particularly important point to note as symptoms in women can be less obvious – chest pain is seen as a classic sign of a heart attack though experts said this was more likely to be absent in women and even when pain was present, doctors were liable to assume it was indigestion or breast pain – meaning that thousands of female patients in urgent need of heart treatment are wrongly sent away.
The research by the University of Leeds studied 600,000 heart attack patients over nine years across 240 hospitals in the UK. Overall, it found that almost a third – 30 percent – of patients had an initial diagnosis which differed from their final diagnosis.
Lead researcher Dr. Chris Gale, associate professor of Cardiovascular Health Sciences, University of Leeds, said: “This research clearly shows that women are at a higher risk of being misdiagnosed following a heart attack than men.” He added that many cases were missed because women themselves did also not realise their symptoms could be those of a heart attack.
Here at home, around 5,000 Irish women die from cardiovascular disease each year and they are seven times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than breast cancer.
The longer a heart attack is left undiagnosed and untreated, the more the heart muscle can be damaged irreversibly.
However, researchers assured that better tests for female diagnoses are in development.
And as always (and regardless of the findings), if you have any concerns or spot recurring symptoms that don’t seem to shift, it’s important to go to your GP and get checked, regardless of your age.
Via The Guardian