NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Women Ignore Heart(Felt) Symptoms at Their Peril

October 1, 2003

Cardiovascular disease is our nation's No. 1 killer of women, claiming a half-million lives each year, six times as many as breast cancer. Women too often ignore heart disease symptoms, according to New York Times columnist Barbara Cain. As a result, heart disease often remains unrecognized by both doctor and patient.

  • Though doctors are now more aware of cardiac symptoms in women, even today women with heart disease receive one-third as many bypass operations, angioplasties, stents and implantable defibrillators as their male counterparts, according to the National Coalition of Women With Heart Disease.
  • In addition, women with cardiac symptoms are hospitalized less often and undergo fewer diagnostic tests.
  • Women account for only one-quarter of those studied in heart-related research.

"While it is essential that doctors correct a striking imbalance in care, women must also shed attitudes based on myth," concludes Cain. "We continue to declare our symptoms pedestrian, we consign cardiovascular disease to men, we fixate on breast cancer and we ignore matters of the heart."

Source: Barbara Cain, "Paying Heed to Problems of the Heart," New York Times, September 30, 2003.


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