It has to do with body shaming.
Symptoms of heart disease are often more mild in women than in men, which, experts warn, can lead to deadly results.
Heart disease is especially insidious in women because most don’t know they’re experiencing heart issues in the first place. And, as Jennifer H. Haythe, an assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health at the Columbia University Medical Center, pointed out to Today, many are wary of seeing their doctor because they're “afraid to get on the scale.”
“That's common, but it's not okay, and above all else, it's dangerous,” Haythe continued. “If you feel that you are being body-shamed by your physician, you need to get a new one. Another reason women avoid checking their heart health is that there is this stigma with heart disease. When we think heart disease, we think: lazy, fat, smokers. We have to overcome that stigma."
Haythe noted that heart disease is viewed as a "men's disease," leading women write off symptoms like palpitations, dizziness, and feeling winded as a "panic attack."
As a result, heart disease in women is often left untreated. According to the American Heart Association, more women than men die within a year of their first heart attack — 26% of women versus 19% of men. This is due, in large part, to women waiting longer to go to the emergency room when they experience symptoms.
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Haythe says it’s important for women to listen to their bodies and to go to the doctor when they suspect something’s not right. "You know if you're feeling off and something is wrong. Don't write it off, and don't feel pressured to write it off," she told Today.
Common heart attack symptoms in women include:
- Pain in the upper back, neck or jaw
- A sense of dread
If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, ask your doctor to check your heart, and trust us: nobody’s judging.