Harvard Women's Health Watch

Younger women get inadequate treatment for heart disease, survey finds

Younger women with heart disease may be unaware of their condition and may not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, according to a report in the March 2015 issue of Circulation. The finding came from a survey of women under 55 who had survived heart attacks.

Researchers from the Translational Research Investigating Underlying Disparities in Acute Myocardial Infarction Patients' Health Status (TRIUMPH) study interviewed 30 women ages 30 to 55 who were hospitalized for heart attacks. They asked the women about their risk factors, the preventive measures they took the symptoms they experienced, and the treatment they sought and received.

Participants commonly reported that they considered themselves too young to be at risk for heart disease even though they had several cardiac risk factors, including a family history, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Many didn't get regular medical care because they lacked insurance, were too busy, or distrusted health care providers. Most reported symptoms such as jaw and shoulder pain, nausea, and fatigue, but they wrote them off as signs of muscle strain or acid reflux. A majority said that they waited until their symptoms were intolerable before getting medical attention because they feared being seen as a hypochondriac.

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