Common Misdiagnosis Among Women: Heart Disease

February is “American Heart Month”, and, as such, it is the perfect time for Americans of all ages to learn more about how to take care of their hearts year-round.

According to Million Hearts, a national initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans. It is a widely held misconception that heart disease primarily affects males.  However, since 1994, more women have died from heart disease and its related conditions than men: roughly one in four women annually.

While heart disease affects both men and women, signs and symptoms that women experience can be more subtle; for example:

  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluttering in the chest (arrhythmia)
  • Pain in the stomach, jaw, back, or neck
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen

When these heart attack symptoms occur, many women do not realize they are actually having a heart attack.  In addition, many women are not aware of the manifestations of progressing heart disease. To add to the problem, many medical professionals are not acutely aware of the differences in the female population’s presentation of heart disease, and the signs and symptoms relative to that disease process and its progression.  Many healthcare providers will misdiagnose heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues in women simply because they do not present with chest pain.

Healthcare providers are required to appreciate the nuances of a female patient’s presentation relative to cardiovascular disease; and to order tests, diagnose timely and treat accordingly.  However, according to researchers at McGill University in Montreal, more women die each year from heart attacks because the symptoms are often misdiagnosed as anxiety and stress. The researchers found that men would receive faster access to diagnostic testing including echocardiograms to check heart function, and evaluation of fibrinolysis, the body’s natural ability to prevent blood clots.  These findings may explain why about 75 percent of men survive their first heart attack compared to only 62 percent of women.

If you or a family member has suffered injury, or if a loved one has passed away as a result of misdiagnosed heart disease, please contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari for compassionate guidance and experienced legal representation.  You may be entitled to pursue and receive significant monetary compensation surrounding your various  losses.   Call us at 973-845-4421.

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