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Women Are at Risk for Misdiagnosed Heart Attacks

Women often exhibit different heart attack symptoms than men doHeart disease kills more women than breast cancer. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in this country. Each year more women die from heart disease than from all cancers combined. Yet the misdiagnosis of heart attacks in women remains a significant problem in the United States.

The Atlantic reports that heart attacks are misdiagnosed in thousands of women each year and that the results of the misdiagnosis can be fatal. The reasons for this may be twofold. First, medical research about heart attacks has been centered on men for centuries. Second, the symptoms of female heart attacks are sometimes different than those that men experience.

Women Often Present With Different Symptoms Than Men

While women may experience the same chest pain that many men experience when they have heart attacks, women may experience other more subtle symptoms, including:

  • Uncomfortable pressure or fullness in the chest that might be constant or that might ebb and flow.
  • Pain or an uncomfortable feeling in the neck, arm, jaw, back, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Cold sweat.

It is possible to have a heart attack without the classic chest pain. Women should take the symptoms describe above seriously and call 911 if they think they may be having a heart attack.

Please Help Raise Awareness About This Risk

Unfortunately, many doctors do not recognize the signs of female heart attacks and women are unable to access the treatment that they need. This may be a form of medical malpractice if the doctor should have recognized the symptoms and taken prompt steps to diagnose a possible heart attack.

This month we observe American Heart Month. A national effort is underway to help prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Please join this effort by sharing this blog on Facebook so that your friends can learn about the symptoms of heart attacks in women and advocate for themselves or their loved ones if a doctor fails to consider a heart attack diagnosis.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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