Thousands of British women are dying needlessly from heart attacks because women often receive a different standard of care than men, according to a new report from the British Heart Foundation. The difference seems to be due to the mistaken belief, still prevalent among medical professionals and lay people alike, that men are both more likely to suffer heart attacks and more likely to die from them. In fact a combination of longer lives, unhealthy lifestyle habits, increasing stress, and other factors means women are just as prone to heart disease as men.
- The BHF cites gender disparities at every stage of care, from diagnosis to treatment and aftercare, which it calculates resulted in the deaths of over 8,000 women in England and Wales from 2002-2013. Overall women are 50% more likely to receive an incorrect diagnosis than men, resulting in 70% greater likelihood of mortality within 30 days for those who are misdiagnosed.
- In addition to the erroneous belief that women are less likely to suffer heart attacks, many doctors also mistakenly believe that women who do suffer heart attacks exhibit different symptoms than men.
- Equally dangerous, the report goes on, many women are also prey to all these misconceptions due to a lack of education about heart disease, and as a result fail to identify their own risk factors, warning signs and symptoms until it is too late.
- Although the report is focused on England and Wales, it is highly likely that the same negative trends are at work around the world, given widespread misconceptions about heart disease being a mostly male disease.
- The BHF report concludes: “Public understanding of women and heart attacks is beset by misperceptions. These are dangerous when they mean a woman doesn’t recognise the symptoms of her heart attack and delays seeking and receiving medical help.”