Doctors may find it difficult to detect heart attack symptoms in women

An exploratory research study suggests a gender gap exists in detecting heart attack symptoms in women.

Physicians have long recognized that heart attack symptoms are more difficult to diagnose in women than in men. Recent research suggests that patients treated by female doctors may be less likely to pass away than those treated by male doctors may.

They published the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it remains an exploratory project because it raises more questions than answers as to what explains this possible gender gap. “I think what’s critical to emphasize is the importance of understanding the diversity of the patient community and ensuring that the physician pool is diverse as well,” said Brad Greenwood, the study’s main author of University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

More than 17 million people around the world die each year from cardiovascular disease according to the World Health Organization. Major signs and symptoms of heart attack in men and women include chest pain or discomfort, nausea, feeling light-headed or exhausted, pain or discomfort in the jaw, and shortness of breath.

Studies show that young women usually tend to experience many more of those non-chest pain symptoms than men do. This makes it difficult to detect their heart attacks.

The researchers analyzed differences in the patient’s outcomes and survival when they saw either a male or female emergency department physician. They inferred gender based on each physician’s name.

According to their findings, gender concordance reduced the probability of death by 5.4 percent. The researchers also found that women treated by male doctors were least likely to survive.





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