Doctors and hospitals still seem to miss some of the most obvious signs of heart attacks — especially where women are involved.
Even though heart disease is the primary killer of women in this country, heart attacks in women are often overlooked — at least a few thousand times every year. Women make up over half of the victims of heart attacks — but men are far more likely to receive a proper diagnosis.
Researchers say that the reasons heart attacks are overlooked in women are cultural bias and lack of research. Doctors are less likely to take a woman’s complaints seriously or to order diagnostic tests that will identify heart disease early. The majority of research on heart attacks and treatments has involved exclusively men.
The symptoms of a heart attack in a female are often different than the symptoms experienced by a male. Women are often told that their heart attack symptoms are unusual, but they aren’t — for women.
If you’re a woman who is experiencing the following symptoms, you should be concerned about the possibility of a heart attack:
- Chest pain that feels like squeezing, similar to a vise
- Unexplained pain that’s significant in your arms, back, neck, or jaw — especially if it is strong enough to wake you up or keep you awake
- Nausea and dizziness
- Shortness of breath that isn’t explainable by any other reason
Don’t expect the chest pain to be on your left, near your heart. Also, don’t expect it to be sharp. It may be closer to an intense pressure than actual pain, although it will still be very uncomfortable.
If you suspect you are having a heart attack, voice your opinion once you reach the hospital. That will at least put the doctors on notice of your suspicions and require them to address the issue. If they fail to do so, that could be potential medical malpractice. Therefore, most doctors will err on the side of caution.