Do women ignore heart symptoms and delay seeking medical care?



During those months when I had my heart problems, I experienced symptoms ranging from breathlessness to chronic tiredness. I was lucky because my professional background as a medical writer helped me recognize the early signs. I immediately consulted my GP and was referred to a cardiologist.

Apparently many people particularly women, fail to recognize symptoms of heart problems that eventually lead to even more serious consequences. This is according to a recent study reported during the American Heart Association’s 9th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research (QCOR) in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke.

Thirty women who suffered from a heart attack were interviewed by researchers at Yale School Medicine. The interviews revealed that many of these women actually failed to recognize and ignored the early signs of an impending heart attack. Most misattributed their symptoms to “fatigue, indigestion, stress or overexertion“, according to lead researcher Judith Lichtman.

The symptoms that the interviewees described in detail included pain in the neck and shoulders, abdominal discomfort, and tiredness. However, they seldom associated these seemingly innocuous symptoms with heart problems. Instead, they expected signs of a heart attack resemble those popularly portrayed in films and on TV. Also those interviewed were young women averaging 48 years in age, many of whom associated heart disorders with advanced age.

Because these misconception, some of these women put off seeking medical help – sometimes up to an hour – till the symptoms become more pronounced. However, other factors also contributed to the delay of getting health care support. These factors were:

• Uncertainty

• Preference to self-medicate

• Perceived negative treatment by healthcare providers

• Competing time/family demands

• Individual beliefs and behaviors to health system failures

• Seeking corroboration of symptoms and deferring responsibility to engage the healthcare system

Delay in seeking medical care, however, can be dangerous, and in the case of heart disease and stroke, can make the difference between life and death.

Heart disease kills one woman almost every minute. More than half of those who died of heart disease in 2002 were women.

Lichtman added that their findings

suggest that additional work is needed to help young women, their families and healthcare providers recognize that young women with heart disease may present with typical and atypical symptoms.”

Do you recognize the symptoms of an impending heart attack? Are you ready to call for help? What are the reasons that might make you delay seeking medical help? Are these reasons valid?

Source:

American Heart Association, News Release 15 May 2008

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Comments

  1. I am the type of person that tends to ignore symptoms or postpone seeing my doctor because I am too busy with my work, etc. This article is a good reminder that I need to watch out for early warning signs in my health.

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