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Why heart attacks too often aren’t recognized in women

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2021 | wrongful death

If you’re seeing a lot of people wearing red, it may not be just because Valentine’s Day is around the corner. February is also “American Heart Month,” and it’s used to make people aware of the dangers of heart disease. One thing that many people are still surprised to learn is that it’s the leading cause of death for women.

What we call a heart attack occurs when the blood that provides the heart with oxygen is reduced or cut off. Often this happens when arteries are clogged by cholesterol, plaque, fat and other substances.

One reason that heart attacks are particularly deadly for women is that they’re often misdiagnosed. Not only do women often not realize when they’re in the midst of a heart attack, but, sadly, sometimes emergency personnel and doctors don’t either.

Looking beyond the ‘’classic’’ symptoms

We have a long history of viewing the classic symptoms of a heart attack as chest pressure with pain, often radiating down the left arm, and shortness of breath. However, women often have a wide range of symptoms.

Chest pain is the most common symptom for both women and men. However, as one cardiology professor who produced a documentary called Ms. Diagnosed explains, “In women, we have to expand that to include neck pain or sometimes just dizziness and nausea with something that feels like heartburn. Jaw, back and arm pain could be the only manifestation for women coming in, and chest discomfort could come later.” She notes, “We need to remember that the array of symptoms in women is much broader.”

Sometimes women who are having heart attacks experience dizziness, nausea and extreme fatigue. They often mistake it for the flu or acid reflux.

It’s wise for women of every age to learn the various symptoms of a heart attack. You may need to advocate for yourself with your own doctor to at least get tests that will rule out a heart attack before it’s too late. If you’ve lost a loved one to a heart attack that was misdiagnosed by a physician, it may be worthwhile to talk with an attorney to determine whether you have a case of malpractice.