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Why do doctors keep missing heart attacks in women?

Women are at a significant risk of death from heart disease, yet doctors often mistake the symptoms of heart attacks in women for other conditions.

Why? Since heart disease is what kills one out of every four women, how can doctors keep overlooking such a common condition?

Essentially, it all comes down to the fact that women exhibit different symptoms than men in the middle of heart attacks. Even though that should be common knowledge, neither patients nor doctors seem to realize it!

The image of the middle-aged man clutching his chest during a heart attack is so ingrained in the American subconscious that even medical professionals tend to think that’s what a heart attack looks like. In reality, however, the symptoms can actually be quite different — especially for women.

To make things even more complicated, women are much more inclined than men to dismiss their own symptoms as something less serious. About 20 percent of women will decide that their heart attack symptoms are related to nothing more than indigestion or stress. Only about half of women know that heart disease is the biggest threat to their health, so it simply isn’t on their minds.

What are some of the signs of a heart attack in a woman? Aside from chest pain (which may or may not be present), symptoms include:

  • Severe fatigue that comes on suddenly or persists over several days
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Problems with nausea, indigestion, or abdominal pressure
  • Sweating while chilled
  • Pain radiating down an arm
  • Pain that radiates into the jaw or neck
  • Unexplained back pain
  • A sense of pressure or heaviness in the middle of the chest (not over the heart where you might expect it) and in the left arm

Women need to know these symptoms. More importantly, when they seek treatment for any of these symptoms, women need to ask their doctors if it’s possible they’re having a heart attack. Never assume that the doctor will even consider the idea unless you ask.

If a doctor does overlook the symptoms of a heart attack in you or a loved one with tragic results, that may be considered medical malpractice. Discuss the situation with an attorney to determine if you have a right to recovery.

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