Women lag behind men when it comes to heart care

Women lag behind men when it comes to heart care

Typically, men are the ones who have to be dragged to the doctor’s office for a basic yearly exam or a physician-advised colonoscopy. However, a recent study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress showed that it’s women who are lagging behind and delaying their care when it comes to heart ailments.

Women tended to be in denial of their issue for a longer time than men. The study showed men at least talked to a friend about their condition, while women just stood pat until someone else mentioned it.  Women were one and half times more likely than men to wait for symptoms to become more severe and more frequent before seeking medical attention.

And just like stroke, timing is everything when a heart attack or any cardiac symptoms persist.

“Women would wait for others to tell them they looked horrible,” says Dr. Catherine Kreatsoulas, lead author of the study and a Fulbright Scholar and Heart and Stroke Foundation Research Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, in a news release. “Women displayed more of an optimistic bias, feeling that the symptoms would pass and get better on their own. The main danger is that when someone comes to the hospital with a more severe or advanced stage of heart disease, there are simply fewer treatment options available.”

The study included patients with suspected coronary artery disease, which is a leading cause of mortality for both genders, even though some might consider heart attacks and heart ailments as a man’s disease. As a result, those who have ailments usually experience angina, which is pain that occurs because of blockage of one or more of the heart’s arteries. In those cases, the heart doesn’t get as much blood and oxygen as it needs causing a pressure, tightness or burning feeling in the chest. Both genders experience different kinds of pain when they have a heart ailment.

“In men, usually the angina are chest pains radiating to the left arm or jaw and difficulty breathing,” says Dr. Amit Vyas, cardiologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “But in women many times atypical symptoms like pain that feels like gas combined with a nausea feeling is what they experience.”

A two-part study, researchers interviewed cardiac patients about their experiences and when they decided to seek medical care. All patients had suspected coronary artery disease and at least one abnormal tests. The study also said both genders could do a better job at going to see a physician earlier instead of attributing the cause to heart burn.

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  1. Lynn Hutley

    I’m not surprised by this. Many women don’t feel well once a month for 35 years or so and that passes. Take care, though, ladies, I’ve heard more and more about “odd indigestion” actually being a heart issue.

  2. This is great information! Heart disease is a top killer of women and this is an excellent article to pass along to loved ones.

  3. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    Thank you for this article; one of my early patients when I was working in the ER in Indiana came in with “heartburn” and when we put on an EKG we saw “tombstones” or the typical EKG pattern of heart attack. The woman was in disbelief, and we had her on a helicopter on the way to Indiannapolis in no time for her angioplasty. I will echo that symptoms in women are vague and many underreport their symptoms. That is why it’s important to take time to gather a good history, and always work to prevent. Heart disease is unfortunately a #1 killer and unfortunately a “foodborne” illness – that is, the standard American diet. Everyone deserves to know about Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish who are leaders in the field of cardiovascular disease prevention (neither of them are cardiologists): http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/08/19/heart.attack.proof.diet/

  4. Ernst Lamothe Jr November 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm · Reply

    Dr. Garg, thank you for your comments. This is an important issue and it is surprising that women do lag behind because they go see the doctor at a better rate than men.

  5. Hopefully with excellent studies like this and more advances in science, women will finally be able to live as long as ment

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.