Women’s lives at risk as doctors miss ‘typical heart attack symptoms
August 21, 2019
Women are more likely to display
“typical” heart attack symptoms than men – according to new research.
Experts have long believed that women experience heart attacks in
a different way to men and suffer from more unusual symptoms – meaning they’re
more often misdiagnosed.
However, a study by the British Heart Foundation has finally
quashed this myth.
The new findings show that women are actually more likely to
display the “typical” heart attack symptoms than men.
And the charity warns incorrectly assuming women show different
signs to men could lead to misdiagnosis, delayed treatment and less intensive
medical interventions being offered.
In the new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart
Association, researchers from Edinburgh University recorded the symptoms of 247
people attending A&E at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after a heart attack.
They had all had the most common type of heart attack, which
occurs when the coronary artery is partially blocked.
In particular, chest pain was the most common symptom for both men
and women, with 93 per cent of both sexes reporting this symptom.
However, more women reported pain radiating down their left arm – with
49 per cent of women and 48 per cent of men showing this sign.
Similarly, more women had pain that radiated to their jaw or back
and women were also more likely to experience nausea in addition to chest pain.
In fact less typical symptoms including heartburn, burning and
stabbing pains and back pain were more common in men than women.
Amy Ferry, cardiology research nurse at the University of
Edinburgh and first author, said: “Our concern is that by incorrectly labelling
women as having atypical symptoms, we may be encouraging doctors and nurses not
to investigate or start treatment for coronary heart disease in women.
“Both men and women present with an array of symptoms, but our
study shows that so-called typical symptoms in women should always be seen as a
red flag for a potential heart attack.”
Typical symptoms in women should always be seen as a red flag for a potential heart attack. Amy Ferry
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the
British Heart Foundation, also emphasized the need for both men and women to recognize
and act on the warning signs.
He said: “Heart attacks are often seen as a male health issue, but
more women die from coronary heart disease than breast cancer in the UK.
“We need to change this harmful misconception because it is
leading to avoidable suffering and loss of life.
“In the UK, three women die of coronary heart disease every hour,
many of them due to a heart attack.
A heart attack is different from a cardiac arrest which happens when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood around your body.