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Women less likely to be diagnosed with heart attacks than men

About 21,000 years of life are lost by women to heart disease each year, and research shows heart attacks are misdiagnosed more often in women than men.

Woman having heart health check

The reason for this is still unknown but a new study shows women under the age of 55, are less likely to be diagnosed after a heart attack than men.

The research suggests one reason could be how doctors make a heart attack diagnosis. Doctors may recognise the symptoms a man has, which could be different than symptoms a woman displays, leading to misdiagnosis.

Heart Foundation Medical Director Dr Gerry Devlin says, "This research provides important information on heart attack symptoms which may be different on occasions in women. Awareness of this possibility and the less typical symptoms can hopefully prevent missed diagnose of heart attacks in women".

The 10 symptoms of a heart attack the study looked at were; chest pain, pain the jaw, neck, arm or back, dizziness, indigestion, nausea, palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, weakness or fatigue, or confusion.

While the top symptoms experienced by both men and women were chest jaw, neck, arm or back pain, women presented with less chest pain, and more sweating, dizziness and nausea than men.

A patient may also present with a different combination of symptoms which meant doctors misdiagnosed those experienced by women. It found that women had a wider range of symptoms than men, which may lead to doctors not considering a heart attack in a woman.

Heart disease it the single biggest killer of women in New Zealand, with nearly 12,000 women being hospitalised with heart attacks each year, and 900 women died from heart attacks in 2017 alone.

Heart disease in women