The Neglected Aspect of Women’s Heart Health
On the occasion of World Heart Day, medical experts are emphasizing that the heart health of women is frequently neglected. Research indicates that women experiencing cardiac symptoms often face delays in emergency care compared to men. Such delays can lead to irreversible heart damage or even death. Although heart disease is the primary cause of mortality among women in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that half of all women are uninformed about this reality. Even within the medical community, there are prevalent misconceptions and misunderstandings about the cardiac risks women face.
Dr. Harmony Reynolds, who has conducted research on both women and men presenting with chest pain in emergency departments, discovered that women typically wait 11 minutes longer than men to receive medical attention. This delay is critical for those experiencing a heart attack, as each minute of delay results in the death of heart muscle. Dr. Reynolds shared numerous accounts of women being disregarded in emergency rooms, often being told that their symptoms were likely due to stress rather than a cardiac issue. The symptoms of a heart attack in women can include chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, nausea, and intense arm pain.
Katherine Fitzgerald, a 61-year-old woman, suffered a heart attack while attending her son’s high school graduation celebration. Unaware of what was happening, she experienced symptoms she had never felt before. However, when emergency medical technicians arrived, they misdiagnosed her condition. Fitzgerald described feeling as if her right elbow was shattered and having difficulty breathing. Despite her symptoms, the paramedic dismissed her complaints as a panic attack. A few days later, Fitzgerald sought medical help on her own and was found to need two stents. The delay in receiving appropriate care resulted in permanent damage to her heart. She is now under the care of Dr. Reynolds and emphasizes the importance of being aware of the symptoms of heart attacks in women and advocating for proper medical attention.
“Any woman you care about—be it your sister, mother, or wife—should be familiar with these symptoms. If she experiences them, stand by her and ensure she gets the medical evaluation she needs,” Fitzgerald advised. Being proactive in demanding proper care can make a significant difference in the outcome for women’s heart health.