The risk of heart disease and heart attacks for women is better recognized than it used to be – largely thanks to efforts by the American Heart Association. That’s despite the fact that the disease is the leading cause of death for women.
Too often, women fail to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack when they’re having one. Unfortunately, so do some doctors.
The event we commonly refer to as a heart attack occurs when the blood flow in the arteries is reduced or cut off completely because of substances like plaque, cholesterol and fat. These artery-clogging substances prevent oxygen from reaching the heart.
A wide range of symptoms
A primary reason for the lack of diagnosis or misdiagnosis is that women often experience different symptoms than men typically do when suffering a heart attack. Some symptoms may not even seem to involve the heart or chest area.
The traditional symptoms long associated with heart attacks (and widely portrayed in movies and on television) of severe pain and pressure in the chest and numbness in the left arm may not occur in women (or even in all men) suffering a heart attack.
While chest pain is a common symptom of a heart attack for everyone, one cardiology professor notes that women who are having a heart attack may at first suffer pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders and back. They might only experience nausea, dizziness or fatigue. She says, “We need to remember that the array of symptoms in women is much broader,” adding that “chest discomfort could come later.” Even then, it can be mistaken for acid reflux. By the time a heart attack is correctly diagnosed and treated, it could be too late.
Women who believe they may be experiencing a heart attack should seek medical attention. Sometimes, they and their loved ones have to advocate for the necessary tests to be done to diagnose or rule out a heart attack.
Not every misdiagnosis or even failure to diagnose is a case of medical malpractice. However, if you or a loved one has been harmed or worse because a physician failed to properly diagnose a heart attack, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.