Women are 50% more likely than men to receive a wrong diagnosis following a heart attack, new research has found. Studies have shown that on average, three in 10 female patients are given different initial and final diagnoses after having a heart attack. This could lead to serious repercussions, including an increased chance of death.
Researchers from Leeds University observed more than 600,000 heart attack patients at more than 240 NHS hospitals across England and Wales. The study took nine years to complete, beginning in April 2004 and ending in March, 2013. Of the 600,000 patients studied, it was found that 198,534 patients were initially given a wrong diagnosis; the majority of these patients were women. Women who suffered STEMI heart attacks had around a 59% higher chance than men of being misdiagnosed and women who experienced NSTEMI heart attacks had a 41% greater chance
Dr Mike Knapton is the associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation; which partly funded this study for the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care. He described the amount of misdiagnosed heart attacks in women as alarmingly high but commented that more accurate tests for female heart attack patients are in the process of being developed. Dr Knapton also said that the study highlighted the importance of this issue and raised awareness of the need for early, accurate heart attack diagnosis.
Heart attacks in women
There are two categories of heart attack; STEMI and NSTEMI. A STEMI heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes locked and is unable to supply the heart with oxygenated blood. NSTEMI heart attacks are more common and happen when one or more arteries become partially blocked. Both types cause serious damage to the heart and can be fatal if not identified and treated immediately.
According to the British Heart Foundation, around 28,000 women die from heart attacks in the UK every year. More than 275,000 women living in the UK today have survived heart attacks in their life; most of these women are living with heart failure or other cardiovascular problems.
What are the signs?
To be able to treat heart attacks quickly and effectively, it is essential to know what signs and symptoms to look out for. Major indicators include tight chest pains which make the chest feel compressed or constricted, shortness of breath, feeling weak and faint and a sudden feeling of anxiety.
Some of these symptoms, especially chest pains, are much milder in some patients than others. This is one of the factors behind heart attacks being mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. According to the NHS, women and people with diabetes are most likely to not experience any chest pain at all during a heart attack.
What to do in the event of a heart attack
The longer a heart attack is left untreated, the worse and less reversible the damage to the heart muscle will be. It is essential to receive an immediate correct diagnosis. Studies have found that people who have had heart attacks go unnoticed or misdiagnosed are 70% more likely to die within 30 days of the attack.
This is why it is so important to be on the lookout for heart attack signs. If you or someone around you is experiencing these symptoms, then you must dial 999 as quickly as possible and ask for an ambulance.
World Heart Day
World Heart Day will be taking place on the 29th September. First launched by the World Heart Federation back in 2000, this event has become the biggest platform for raising funds and awareness for cardiovascular problems. World Heart Day is also the ideal time to spread helpful tips for maintaining a healthy heart and practice self care as much as possible to avoid cardiovascular diseases.
If you want to help spread information that could save lives and raise money for vital research, then get involved in World Heart Day this year. Click here to find out more and to order materials and tools that could help you start a fun campaign in your local area.