Medtech POV Blog

Women and Heart Disease

A woman I know went to the doctor for a racing heartbeat. The doctor directed her to a mental health therapist for treating panic attacks. Her accurate diagnosis was heart disease.

Another woman I know was regularly losing consciousness. After multiple doctor visits, a cardiac electrophysiologist implanted a cardiac monitor that picked up the cause: a slowing heart rate. After getting a pacemaker, she has not had an episode since.

While missed and elusive diagnoses of heart disease affect men, women are more often impacted. Many of us, including doctors, don’t realize that heart disease symptoms often present differently in women than men. We also don’t realize that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death not only for men, but also women.

The calls for action are clear:

Medical professionals must recognize the symptoms of heart disease in women due to its prevalence.

The woman I know who received a mental health diagnosis for heart disease symptoms isn’t alone. One study showed middle-aged women were much more likely than men to receive a mental health diagnosis for heart disease. Heart attack symptoms in women can be different than in men and less well-known as heart attack-related. Women may experience shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and back or jaw pain, for example. Doctors should recognize and acknowledge the differences.

“Many of us, including doctors, don’t realize that heart disease symptoms often present differently in women than men.” 

––Tara Federici, Vice President, Technology & Regulatory Affairs, AdvaMed

Women must advocate for themselves and feel empowered to ask questions if given a diagnosis that ignores symptoms associated with heart disease in women.

A marathon runner who is suddenly winded walking a block may have heart disease, not anxiety or asthma. Some evidence suggests women worry more about breast cancer than heart disease. Screening and prevention are critically important for both illnesses.

Women must be offered participation in clinical trials.

Clinical trials are critical to developing and refining effective treatments for each type of patient, whether differentiated by gender, age or other factors. AdvaMed member companies promote the recruitment, enrollment, and retention of women in cardiovascular device trials.

Medical technology saves and enhances lives every day. A medical device, such as a stent, pacemaker, or heart valve, can make a huge difference for cardiovascular patients. Medication also could be the prudent path. Before any treatment can take place, however, patients need an accurate diagnosis. Women need their heart disease recognized and treated on equal footing with men. American Heart Month is an ideal opportunity to help level the playing field.

Learn more about Women in Cardiovascular Trials.

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