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Why are heart disease and heart attack symptoms in women being ignored?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CSC) approximately a quarter of all deaths that occur in the United States each year, over 600,000 can be traced back to heart disease.

While many think of heart disease as a "man's disease" it is also actually one of the top killers of women. When most people think of heart attack symptoms they think of chest pain and pressure, and numbness and tingling in the left arm. While some women experience this, these are largely men's symptoms. Many women experience more subtle symptoms that doctors can easily overlook or attribute to other issues.

Old habits die hard

For hundreds of years, heart disease has first been considered a "man's disease." Even today, women's symptoms are not fully explained in medical textbooks leaving doctors less knowledgeable about women's heart disease and heart attacks. In fact, doctors are less likely to authorize extensive diagnostic tests for women unless the symptoms being shown are those traditionally experienced by men during heart attacks.

The result? Men are more likely to have an earlier diagnosis of heart disease and when heart attacks are recognized in women, they are more likely to be severe or even fatal.

Heart attack symptoms in women - even chest pains - can be doubted

Men and women experience heart attack symptoms differently. Common heart attack symptoms in women include:

  • General body aches
  • Mild back, neck, arm, or jaw discomfort
  • Feeling weak suddenly
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Indigestion and nausea
  • Fatigue

Although all doctors recognize that chest pains are a sign of a heart attack in both men and women, even these can be ignored in women. Doctors often discount chest pain or feelings of chest pressure in women as being attributable to anxiety, nervousness or heartburn - medical conditions incorrectly characterized as "female" in nature.

Early diagnosis is key. Make sure your doctor is taking your symptoms seriously.

If a person is fortunate enough to survive a heart attack, the next portion of his/her life is likely to become more difficult. When medical interventions are done early, people are better able to recover and live fuller lives. When symptoms are missed and ignored, the more challenging life after heart attack becomes.

If you're a woman and are experiencing any of the symptoms above, your doctor should be ordering further testing to rule out the possibility of heart disease or heart attacks. If your doctor missed your heart disease, misdiagnosed your heart attack, or if your diagnosis was unnecessarily delayed, a medical malpractice attorney can review your case and help you determine whether or not you and your family may be entitled to compensation for your discomfort and medical expenses.

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