Heart attacks cause the deaths of both men and women worldwide each year. However, women are more likely than men to receive a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis after having one.
These mistakes can result in long-term consequences, including deadly ones. There are multiple reasons behind the higher rate of missed diagnoses or misdiagnoses of heart attacks among the female sex.
One major reason for a missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis is the variation in symptoms between men and women. While chest pain is a common symptom in men, women often experience subtler signs such as fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea or back pain. Doctors can misinterpret these signs as stress, anxiety or digestive issues.
Societal perceptions and biases also contribute to the problem. There is a common misconception that heart disease primarily affects men. Consequently, both patients and healthcare providers may not immediately consider heart-related issues when women present with symptoms. This delayed recognition can lead to delayed treatment.
Underestimation of risk factors
The underestimation of risk factors in women further complicates accurate diagnosis. Certain risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, have different effects on men versus women. Healthcare providers may not always consider these factors as seriously in women, leading to missed opportunities for prevention and early intervention.
According to the Mayo Clinic, cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death among women. A misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or missed diagnosis of a heart attack can have severe consequences. Delayed treatment can result in more extensive damage to the heart muscle, leading to heart failure or even death. While women may face a harder time obtaining a heart attack diagnosis, they have options if they sustain negative consequences as a result of a wrong or missed diagnosis and may be able to receive compensation for their losses.