Heart attacks and strokes harm women more due to underdiagnosis

Heart attacks and strokes harm women more due to underdiagnosis

Sexism also affects health issues. Diseases such as stroke and heart attacks are underdiagnosed in the female group because they are considered more common in men. Other conditions, such as migraines, which are more common in women, receive little research. Doctors at the Hospital de la Val d'Ebron in Barcelona highlighted this reality yesterday, on the occasion of Women's Day.


“Strokes do not affect women more, but they sometimes appear differently, and it is difficult to diagnose a woman with an acute stroke,” explains Marta Rubiera, a neurologist in the Stroke Unit. Unlike men, women tend to have strokes at an older age. This disease is the main cause of death among females. In the masculine it is “the second or third.” The prevalence is the same in both sexes, but their mortality is higher because it is detected less often and because they are usually older than they are when they suffer from it, Rubiera says.

This neurologist welcomes studies showing that women receive fewer treatments to dissolve blood clots resulting from stroke, and that they also receive them later. “We know that women, with the same stroke and at the same age, have a worse prognosis,” says Rubiera, explaining that in general, this is a fact due to “social differences.” He adds: “Women are more cared for than men. They complain less, suffer more, and are not alerted as quickly. All of this can make the diagnosis worse.”

Double the death toll


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Meanwhile, stroke is more likely to go unnoticed in young women. This is because there are diseases called “stroke” that mimic a stroke and are more common among women. “For example, migraines sometimes mimic symptoms of a stroke, such as changes in vision or difficulty speaking. So when women go to the emergency room, doctors think of the migraine before the stroke,” the neurologist explains.

Meanwhile, women are also more likely to die when they suffer a heart attack. Cardiologist Antonia Sambola says: “A few years ago I conducted a study with the Spanish Society of Cardiology and we saw how the death rate from heart attacks doubles in women. They die in 18% of cases and die in 9%.” , Deputy Coronary Unit of Ca-Val d'Hebron. Although it is true that women tend, on average, to be older than men when they suffer a heart attack, the researchers found that this was not the main reason, but that the pain in them was “insignificant” and “does not take this into account.” account.”

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women, although the general population and many healthcare workers believe it is breast cancer. Every year in Spain, about 6,000 more women than men die from these diseases, which usually “What are only associated with the male sex,” Sambola advises.

When you consult a woman with chest pain, there is a “predisposition” to believe that it is, for example, osteoarthritis (it can occur in the area of ​​the sternum that articulates with the ribs) or anxiety, and it is “less” likely to have a heart attack. He adds: “They are also not aware of the possibility of a heart attack and wait for the pain to go away, which is a factor that delays medical care.” He insists that the symptoms of a heart attack in women are “identical” to those in men: chest pain. But in their case, they are also accompanied by “nausea, vomiting and sweating.”

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As president of the Val d'Hebron Commission on Gender Perspectives, Sampolla also studied how women suffer more “adverse effects” from chemotherapy: 68% of them experience secondary symptoms, compared to 46% of men. “This happens because in general – and not just in oncology – clinical trials include many more men than women,” he explains. “Only 30% of patients in clinical trials are women, but the results are extrapolated to both sexes.”

This cardiologist also complains that women often go to consultations because of “headaches and migraines” and are not always prescribed the appropriate treatment, but rather “conventional painkillers.” “In many cases there is bias in therapeutic efforts, and this must be corrected.”

Migraines affect both sexes unequally: for every three women, one man suffers from this disease. In addition, attacks in women are “more severe, longer-lasting and more difficult to treat,” notes Patricia Bozo Rozic, head of the Hebron Valley Headache Unit.

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