Often experiencing symptoms unattributable to heart disease, such as shortness of breath, cold sweat, malaise, fatigue, nausea and indigestion, and jaw and back pain, women are repeatedly misdiagnosed or delay seeking care. According to a study published in the journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, in contrast to 36% of men, an astonishing 62% of women reported not having chest pain or discomfort. This can oftentimes result in the dismissal of the symptoms experienced by women as stress or anxiety. Even when experiencing identical symptoms as men, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness, and told their symptoms are in their head and unrelated to cardiovascular diseases.
The number one cause of death in America is heart disease. However, compared to men, women are oftentimes unaware that they may be experiencing a heart attack and/or their symptoms go under-diagnosed or under-treated, resulting in a heightened risk of death among women. This can be attributed to a lack of knowledge and expertise in the field as most studies on heart disease, to date, have mostly involved male participants. Women only represent about 20-25% of clinical trial participants due to the fear of pregnancy or hormonal fluctuations influencing trial results.
Heart disease kills nearly700,000people annually
Why Heart Disease in Women Is So Often Missed or Dismissed
Even when experiencing symptoms, women are less likely than men to immediately call 911, but rather contact a loved one, such as a family member or friend. Not to mention the average wait time for women to see a doctor or nurse in the emergency room is eleven minutes longer than that of men, according to the Journal of American Heart Association.
72% of women who had a heart attack waited more than 90 minutes to go to a hospital or call 911 compared to 54% of men
Women also tend to delay seeking care because by and large they experience heart attacks later in life. A study showed that the average age a woman experiences a heart attack is 69 compared to their counterpart at 61. Yet, conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity have played a role in the increase of cardiovascular related issues among young women between the ages of 35 and 54.
As heart disease continues to rise among women, it is imperative that research in this area continue to evolve and encourage the participation of women in clinical trials surrounding cardiovascular medicine.