Women’s Health Suffers When Doctors Ignore Heart Disease Symptoms

by Kevin on February 18, 2009

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, many doctors are failing to give their female patients the kind of information and treatment they need for these disorders. Even when presented with symptoms of heart disease, all too often doctors fail to make the connection and offer appropriate interventions and treatment. When a woman is taken to a community hospital in the United States with symptoms of heart disease, often treatment given doesn’t follow the guidelines set out for these health problems. In contrast, a man who is admitted to hospital with the same symptoms will likely receive the following kinds of treatments:

  • Aspirin
  • Angioplasty procedures
  • Beta blockers
  • Medications to break up clots
  • Surgery to improve blood flow to the heart

The sad fact is that women who are admitted to hospital after suffering a STEMI (ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction), which is a serious heart attack, are more likely to die as a result than men are.

Doctors need to adopt a different mindset when it comes to treating heart disease in women. Instead of discounting the symptoms they see, medical personnel need to consider that if the symptoms point to heart disease, then they need to provide treatment for that condition.

This is not an impossible task for North American doctors; physicians in Israel have adopted a more aggressive policy when it comes to treating women for heart disease. As a result, the gap in mortality rates between men and women due to heart disease in that country has closed.

According to the American Heart Association, 455,000 women lost their lives due to heart disease in 2006. It’s disturbing to think that many of these fatalities could be prevented if the women were given more appropriate treatment.

Doctors Can Help to Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease can be prevented if women are given the information they need to stay healthy. Doctors, who are on the front lines of health care, can and should be telling their female patients to take care of their health by doing the following:

  • Eating a balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables
  • Exercising regularly
  • Having their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked as part of their annual health checkup

If high cholesterol and/or blood pressure is detected, then the doctor can offer treatments for the condition. Medications may be prescribed, and the woman will need to follow up with her doctor on a regular basis to keep her condition monitored closely.

Educate Yourself About Heart Disease

The key to staying healthy is to take charge of your own health. Learn as much as you can about heart disease and the risk factors associated with this condition. When you visit your doctor for your healthcare needs, make a point of bringing up heart disease if he or she doesn’t address it.

Ask about what you can do to stay healthy, and follow your doctor’s suggestions. This advice is especially important if there is a family history of cardiovascular problems, since your risk goes up in that situation.

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