Tag Archives: diagnosing heart attack in women

Dear Carolyn: “Did I have a ‘real’ heart attack?”

8 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     July 8, 2018

As part of my occasional Dear Carolyn series featuring my readers’ unique narratives about how they became heart patients, I offer today a medical mystery from an Oregon reader. After dueling physicians differed in their opinions of her diagnosis, Lynn Bay now wonders if she actually did have a “real” heart attack, as one of them had diagnosed. Her story may seem familiar to you if you’ve ever had your medical experience dismissed or minimized. Here’s Lynn’s story, with her permission: Continue reading

“Dear Carolyn: I was never one to complain. . . “

10 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    June 10, 2018

Sometimes, the story of how another woman first discovered she had heart disease can seem eerily familiar to our own. It’s that familiarity that first attracted me to this Dear Carolyn episode (our fourth in the occasional series that features my Heart Sisters readers sharing the unique experience of what it can feel like to become a heart patient).

This particular blog reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, explains her reluctance to seek medical help while repeatedly blaming her distressing symptoms on non-cardiac causes. I completely identified with that reluctance because I went through that same surreal refusal to seek help for my own worsening cardiac symptoms after being misdiagnosed in the E.R. with acid reflux. If you, too, have ever engaged in what researchers call “treatment-seeking delay behaviour” during a heart attack, her story might feel familiar to you, too. Continue reading

Typical vs. “atypical” heart attack signs in women

27 May

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  May 27, 2018

Before I was misdiagnosed with acid reflux and sent home from the Emergency Department, the heart attack symptoms I was experiencing had seemed pretty dramatic during that eventful early morning walk. They were, in fact, what all physicians (and Dr. Google) would consider to be classic heart attack signs. 

My most debilitating symptom at the time was the chest pain that doctors know as angina pectoris (a Latin name that translates gruesomely as “strangulation of the chest”). I also felt like I was going to vomit, I was sweating profusely, and I had pain radiating down my left arm. (None of those textbook symptoms, by the way, helped to convince the Emergency physician that I was, in fact, having a heart attack. Read more about misdiagnosis of women’s heart disease here). 
Continue reading

When your doctor mislabels you as an “anxious female”

4 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Take it from me: the only thing worse than a heart attack is being misdiagnosed and sent home from hospital while you’re having it. And for women in particular, this is a tragically all-too-common reality.  Research on cardiac misdiagnoses reported in The New England Journal of Medicine(1), for example, looked at more than 10,000 heart patients (48% of them women) who had gone to their hospital Emergency Departments with chest pain or other significant heart attack symptoms. Women younger than 55 were SEVEN TIMES more likely to be misdiagnosed and turned away from the E.R. than their male counterparts.

The consequences of this reality for women were enormous: being sent home from the hospital in mid-heart attack doubled their chances of dying.

Some of the most popular cardiac misdiagnoses that heart attack survivors have told me about include physician guesses like indigestion, menopause, stress, gall bladder issues, exhaustion, pulled muscles, dehydration and more. But perhaps the most distressing misdiagnosis to trip from the lips of an Emergency Department physician is “anxiety”. This one single word is instantly both dismissive and embarrassing. And worse, to have the diagnosis of “anxious female” recorded permanently on a woman’s chart virtually guarantees a definitive psychiatric stereotype for all future medical visits.   Continue reading

Biology or bias? Women twice as likely to die after heart attack

29 Aug

woman heart tattoo Image.0.0.1

The CBC (our Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) did a report this week about women and heart disease that included an interview with Dr. Beth Abramson, a Toronto cardiologist and spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  She was responding to results of a new study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that suggests women are almost twice as likely to die within 30 days of a heart attack compared with men. Dr. Abramson said:

“It’s sometimes hard to sort out if there is a difference in biology between men and women, or if there is a gender bias.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Jeffrey Berger of New York University Medical Center, votes for biology.   Continue reading