Sunday, February 26, 2012

Symptoms of Heart Attack in Women Below 55 may be Misdiagnosed and Treatment Delayed

The classical symptom of heart attack that forces one to get consultation with a doctor the chest pain is often missing in women below 55, which even can bias a doctor to settle for some other diagnosis, rather than the heart attack.This is according to a study of more than one million people in the US.

typical changes in CK-MB and cardiac troponin ...
Image via Wikipedia; Changes in Cardiac Troponin and CK-MB In Acute MI
Heart attack is not as common in women below 55 as in men in that age group. Often, instead of chest pain women of this age group experience discomfort or heaviness in chest. The women and the attending doctor must be suspicious enough to consider the myocardial infarction (MI) in these patients.
In the said study it was seen that overall, 42% of women did not experience chest pain compared with 30% of men. Once admitted, the study found that women were more likely to die than men from the same age group because of bias, and consequent delay in diagnosis and initiation of proper treatment. Some 14% of women died compared with 10% of men.
The bias is because of atypical symptoms in younger ladies, and the fact that attacks among younger women are relatively rare. In fact the average age of women admitted to hospital in the study was 74, compared with 67 for men.
Younger women may need to heed that advice more than most because they appear to be less likely to have chest pains. Their symptoms can be overlooked by inexperienced medical staff because heart attacks in young women are rare. 
The symptoms can be;
  • A dull pain, ache or 'heavy' feeling in the chest
  • A mild discomfort in the chest that makes one feel generally unwell
  • Pain that spreads to the back, arm or stomach
  • Pain that feels like a bad episode of indigestion
  • Chest pain accompanied by feeling light-headed or dizzy
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