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Why misdiagnoses occur in female heart ailments

The misdiagnosis of heart ailments among women has been more common than one may think. The reason behind this is that for decades scientists and medical professionals neglected to include women in numerous research studies about the human heart.

With no women in these studies, researchers had no data on the female heart. Naturally, this exclusion led to the misdiagnosis of many female patients who sought treatment for heart-related issues.

Researchers excluded women from studies

While in the past 20 years medical professionals have increased their attention to heart health of women, they cannot make up for the previous decades of bias from their medical colleagues. In some instances, doctors dismissed the concerns of female patients, citing that their issue was not with their heart, but a stomach ailment, asthma, gallstone attack or panic attack.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, middle-aged men represented the primary subjects for research on heart disease. And the oversight of women continued for many more years. For example, a 1982 study — which established the parallels between heart disease and cholesterol – included 12,866 male subjects and not a single female. And a 1995 study that revealed aspirin may reduce the risk of a heart attack focused on 22,071 men. Once again, not a single woman participated.

The scant information on female heart health also affected the medical education world. With incomplete research and studies in textbooks and research papers, how could doctors effectively treat female patients?

Women have different symptoms than men

Take a look at these differences. While many men experience chest pains during a heart attack, women experience:

  • Neck discomfort
  • Jaw pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Arm aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion

Different symptoms from different genders. No wonder a number of misdiagnoses have occurred in matters related to female heart health.

An awakened medical industry?

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While medical professionals and researchers have awakened when it comes to female heart health, they have a great amount of catching up to do.