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Why are heart attacks misdiagnosed in women so often?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women – but heart attacks are still regarded as largely a “man’s problem.” Women who are in the midst of a heart attack have no guarantee that they’ll receive an accurate diagnosis and receive life-saving emergency care even if they get to a hospital because their symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed.

Delayed diagnosis can have dire consequences. Even when a heart attack victim survives, they may be left with more severe damage to their hearts and long-term health issues that might have been avoided with proper treatment.

Why are heart attacks in women misdiagnosed as everything from muscle strain and heartburn to anxiety and stress? There are several reasons:

1. Their symptoms are different than the symptoms of men

It’s wrong to consider the presentation of heart attacks in women as “atypical,” but that’s how they’re labeled – largely because all the studies on heart attacks were done on men. Women are less likely to have chest pain and pressure and more likely to have shortness or breath, nausea, back and jaw pain or severe fatigue – and that’s typical for them. However, doctors aren’t trained to associate those symptoms with heart disease.

2. There’s a social bias in play among health care providers

Women and their health experiences are sometimes blatantly dismissed. Studies frequently show that medical gaslighting is a very real problem, and it’s largely directed at women. The gender biases in health care are pervasive. Women patients are frequently told that their serious health issues are simply hormonal changes, anxiety or depression. That factor also frequently drives women to delay seeking medical care in emergencies, especially if they don’t realize that their condition is serious.

If you or your loved one suffered a heart attack that was misdiagnosed, the consequences can be far-reaching. Finding out more about what it takes to hold a provider accountable for their mistakes can help you move forward.