Generally, people don’t like to wait. And yet, according to a small study presented at the 2014 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, that’s exactly what women are doing when they begin to experience signs of a heart attack. The research found that men acted on those signs quicker than women, while women tended to play a dangerous waiting game and were more likely than men to wait for severe symptoms to appear before seeking medical attention.
Wanting to understand why men and women act differently, the researchers interviewed two different groups of patients with suspected coronary artery disease shortly before they had their first angiogram. The first group was asked about their experiences of chest pain and what led them to seek medical attention. The second group of patients was grouped by gender when asked about their decisions to get medical attention.
The researchers identified six characteristic stages in both men and women in the transition from first experiencing cardiac symptoms to seeking medical help, which they refer to as the “symptomatic tipping point.” In chronological order, the six stages are:
1. A period of uncertainty where the symptoms were thought to be due to some other conditions
2. Denial or dismissal of symptoms
3. Asking opinion of a friend or family member
4. Recognition of severity of symptoms with feelings of defeat
5. Seeking medical attention
Why do women delay?
Even though the warning signs of heart disease are virtually the same for men and women, women are much more likely to try to wait out their symptoms. One reason women delay seeking medical attention is that many women consider heart disease a man’s disease. However, about 400,000 women die each year from cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association, and it is the No. 1 killer of women. Another reason that women delay seeking medical attention is that, generally, they are the caregivers of their families and don’t feel they have the time to be sick. Some women may wait until the symptoms worsen or refuse to believe that something may be wrong until someone tells them how awful they look.
If you think you are having a heart attack, do not delay. Call 911.
Signs you may be having a heart attack:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
- Feeling weak, lightheaded or nauseated
Shortness of breath
Advanced cardiac care close to home
Baptist Beaumont Hospital has a long history of clinical excellence in cardiac care. We are a Certified Chest Pain Center and a Stroke Certified Hospital. For more information, please call (409) 212-TAVR (8287) or visit www.bhset.net/heart.