Knowledgeable and Experienced Guidance

Understanding heart attack misdiagnosis in women

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

According to the CDC, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Although it is a potentially deadly matter regardless of gender, misdiagnosis in women continues to be a problem.

It is important to recognize the factors that contribute to the misunderstanding and oversight of heart attack symptoms. This can help more women receive the care they need.

Atypical symptoms

One primary cause of misdiagnosis in women is the atypical presentation of heart attack symptoms. Unlike the classic chest pain experienced by men, women sometimes exhibit subtler signs such as nausea, shortness of breath and fatigue. Jaw pain and upper back discomfort can also occur. Although a 2020 study shows that women under the age of 55 often have more variation in symptoms, heart attack in younger females is still misinterpreted or attributed to other less serious conditions.

Lack of gender-specific research

Historically, medical research has predominantly focused on male subjects, leading to a knowledge gap in understanding how heart attacks manifest in women. The lack of gender-specific study results in health care providers being less equipped to recognize and interpret the diverse symptoms that women may present during a heart attack. Equality in research may bring better outcomes.

Stereotypes and awareness gaps

Societal stereotypes that associate heart attacks with older men contribute to an underestimation of heart disease risk in women. These stereotypes influence both patients and health care professionals, leading to a lack of awareness and vigilance regarding heart health in women. Dismissal of or inattentiveness to symptoms can result from these dangerous assumptions.

Communication barriers

Effective communication between patients and health care providers is vital for accurate diagnosis. However, women may downplay their symptoms or fail to communicate them clearly, assuming they are not related to heart issues. Additionally, health care providers may not ask the right questions or thoroughly explore symptoms, further contributing to misdiagnosis. This poor communication may be deadly.

Delayed seeking of medical attention

Women, influenced by the misconception that heart attacks are primarily a male problem, may delay seeking medical attention. This delay can be critical, as early intervention is necessary for minimizing damage during a heart attack. The failure to recognize the urgency of symptoms can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment.

Knowing the various symptoms of heart attacks in women and advocating for responsive, effective treatment are important steps in resolving this concerning discrepancy in health care.