Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Women play dangerous waiting game with heart symptoms

28.10.2014

Heart disease a leading cause of death for women yet they are more likely than men to dismiss pain and delay seeking medical help

When heart symptoms strike, men and women go through similar stages of pain but women are more likely to delay seeking care and can put their health at risk, according to a study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.

"The main danger is that when someone comes to the hospital with a more severe or advanced stage of heart disease, there are simply fewer treatment options available," says Dr. Catherine Kreatsoulas, lead author of the study and a Fulbright Scholar and Heart and Stroke Foundation Research Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Kreatsoulas, an epidemiologist, says we don't know enough about how people perceive their heart symptoms and at what stage they are prompted to seek medical care. Her study included patients with suspected coronary artery disease, just prior to undergoing their first coronary angiogram test.

The study was conducted in two parts. In the first part, researchers interviewed cardiac patients about their experience of angina and their decision to seek medical care. A new group of patients was enrolled into the second phase of the study, which quantified by gender the reasons why patients sought care.

Angina is the pain that occurs when your heart doesn't get as much blood and oxygen as it needs because of a blockage of one or more of the heart's arteries. This pain is often described as a pressure, tightness or burning feeling. It is a warning signal that you are at increased risk of a heart attack, cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death.

The researchers developed the term "symptomatic tipping point" to capture the transitional period someone goes through between experiencing cardiac symptoms and getting medical attention. They identified six transitional stages, common to both men and women. Men, she notes, responded to these symptoms faster.

The six stages, in chronological order, include:

• a period of uncertainty (patient attributes their symptoms to another health condition), • denial or dismissal of symptom, • seeking assistance/second opinion of someone such as a friend or family member, • recognition of severity of symptoms with feelings of defeat, • seeking medical attention, then • acceptance.

Women stayed in the denial period longer than men. While men would consult with a friend or loved one more readily about the symptoms, "women would wait for others to tell them they looked horrible," says Dr. Kreatsoulas. "Women displayed more of an optimistic bias, feeling that the symptoms would pass and get better on their own."

This finding was substantiated in the second part of the study where women were one and half times more likely than men to wait for symptoms to become more severe and more frequent before seeking medical attention.

Other priorities could be taking over, she suggests, such as women's focus on caregiving roles or even risk aversion. Dr. Kreatsoulas points to research showing that when women are ill, "they are often more concerned with how long they may be out of commission and not necessarily as concerned about the best treatment options."

She says that both men and women often attribute symptoms to other possibilities, such as heartburn or a pulled muscle. "But when women feel even a small improvement in symptoms, they seem to dismiss them for a longer period of time," says Dr. Kreatsoulas.

That may be due partly to a perception that coronary artery disease is a "man's disease," even though it's a leading cause of mortality for women. If women aren't thinking about heart attack, then it's easier to disregard the symptoms.

"Angina is a warning signal that you are at increased risk of a heart attack, cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death," says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson author of Heart Health for Canadians. "If you experience this kind of chest pain, see your doctor immediately to determine the cause and get treatment if necessary."

As for those angina symptoms, Dr. Abramson says there's another misconception – that women and men experience different signs of heart problems. "That's largely a myth and ignoring symptoms could put your life at risk," she says. "Heart disease is a leading cause of death and can strike anyone. Making healthy choices is an important part of prevention, but understanding the symptoms and acting on them without delay can also save lives."

Angina usually lasts a few minutes, but if the pain lasts longer, it may mean that you have a sudden, total blockage of a coronary artery or that you may be having a heart attack and you need to get medical help immediately. "In this case, don't delay. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency response number immediately," Dr. Abramson says.

She recommends that men and women alike do a free risk assessment at heartandstroke.ca/riskassessment and get tips on lowering their risk. "Being smoke-free, physically active, following a healthy diet and controlling blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels are key in preventing premature heart disease."

Research creates survivors

Grace Dierssen's heart attack was the turning point — the catalyst for a complete lifestyle overhaul. Her high-powered job in software development and e-commerce didn't leave much room for cultivating personal health.

She ignored the discomfort, exhaustion and breathing difficulties, wondering if her symptoms were all in her mind, as she headed off to work. Hours later, she couldn't stand the pain and went to a walk-in clinic, which immediately called an ambulance.

"As women, we tend to put everyone else's needs ahead of ours," says Grace, acknowledging that many women juggle career, raising children and possibly care for their own parents as well. "I was conscious of that in my own recovery. I've learned to stick up for myself, and put my health first."

Three years after her heart attack, Grace has made a full recovery, and encourages other women to give their health the full attention it deserves before it's too late.

The Canadian Cardiovascular Congress is co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

###

Statements and conclusions of study authors are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect Foundation or CCS policy or position. The Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society make no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability.

About the Heart and Stroke Foundation

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen. heartandstroke.ca

For more information and/or interviews, contact the

CCC 2014 MEDIA OFFICE AT 778-331-7618 (Oct 25-28).

Amanda Bates
Curve Communications
amanda@curvecommunications.com
office: 604-684-3170
cell: 604-306-0027 Gina Vesnaver

Curve Communications
gina@curvecommunications.com
office: 604-684-3170
cell: 604-317-6129

Congress information and media registration is at http://www.cardiocongress.org

After October 28, 2014, contact:

Jane-Diane Fraser
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
jfraser@hsf.ca (613) 691-4020

Amanda Bates | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Angina Cardiovascular Foundation attack blood cardiac dangerous death heart disease pain play risk symptoms women

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>