We tend to think that people who suffer heart attacks are middle aged, overweight men, but it’s something that can happen to anyone. In many cases, the symptoms of a heart attack remain unrecognized and study shows that 30% of people were misdiagnosed, of which most were women.
Researchers from the University of Leeds studied 600,000 heart attack patients over nine years, revealing the abovementioned worrying number. It seems that the source of this problem is the lack of education and awareness among the public, but also among doctors. Women don’t recognize they are having a heart attack and go to their GP instead of A&E directly, resulting in a late diagnosis.
A heart attack occurs when the oxygen-rich blood flow to our heart muscle gets blocked or severely reduced, and strikes someone every 43 seconds. Symptoms can vary, but common signs are tightness, pain or a burning feeling in the chest, pain in the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach and being short of breath, feeling nauseous or vomiting.
Women are, more likely than men, to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain, and sometimes absenting chest pain. When women do experience symptoms like chest pain- or discomfort, they can get confused with indigestion or breast pain. Additionally, symptoms of a heart attack can be very subtle and women tend not to see a doctor as frequently as men do.
The research revealed that women are 50% more likely to suffer from a misdiagnosis, leaving them at higher risk than men.
Dr. Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation and cofounder of the research, states that thanks to the new research, doctors can have a better understanding of the symptoms – particularly in women, be more aware and work on tests that will improve the accuracy of the diagnosis.
This is very important since the longer a heart attack is undiagnosed and untreated, the more serious and irreversible damage it brings to the heart muscle, increasing the risk of death.
If you are experiencing any of the signs mentioned above, make sure you go to the hospital right away.