In the United States, more than 15,000 women under the age of 55 die every year of heart disease, and researchers are trying to understand why they are not receiving life-saving treatment fast enough.
In a study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, researchers interviewed 30 women between the ages of 30-55 who had been hospitalized after a heart attack. Earlier studies have shown that women wait longer to receive medical care after heart attacks, and their symptoms are often misdiagnosed when they do arrive at the emergency room. During their interviews, the researchers found that many of the women had no idea that heart attack symptoms include neck pain, indigestion, jaw pain, and fatigue, and others did not want to go to the hospital in case it was a false alarm.
“We often see it portrayed as someone falling to their knees, holding onto their chest,” Judith Lichtman, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, told NPR. “Maybe we need to do a better job of explaining and describing to the public what a heart attack looks and feels like.” She also wants to see doctors taking women seriously when they come in for medical attention, so they don’t feel like they are seeking help for no reason. “I think it is really critical that we empower women to not feel any stigma or judgment,” she said. Lichtman also recommends that doctors listen to women and ask about possible symptoms, and keep an eye on those who have high blood pressure, cholesterol, and family history of heart disease.