Heart problems aren’t the only disease that doctors often overlook in women. Below, you’ll read more about this and six others that have subtle or confusing symptoms and are frequently missed by women and their doctors. By learning the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment, you can better protect yourself against some of life’s nastier surprises.
One in three women has cardiovascular disease; it claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. More women than men die of heart disease every year, yet they are six times more likely than men to be mistakenly sent home from emergency rooms by unsuspecting doctors.
Partly, that’s because women often don’t have the classic male sign of cardiac failure: severe chest pains. Women tend to experience symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, indigestion, and fatigue—and even they don’t know that they’re experiencing a heart attack. As a result, women often take longer to seek emergency care. And because doctors miss the symptoms, they are slow to take action, delaying emergency surgery to reopen clogged blood vessels and restore blood flow to the heart.
A University of Michigan study found that women must wait 13 minutes more on average than men for emergency heart surgery. Add to that another 13 minutes they waited before seeking help, and the result is almost a half hour of potentially deadly heart damage. Not surprisingly, female victims are twice as likely as their male counterparts to die within two weeks of a heart attack.
What you need to know
Smoking, high cholesterol, inactivity, stress, and obesity can weaken blood vessels. African Americans, diabetics, women with a family history of heart disease, or those who are older than 65 are also at increased risk.