Of all of the maladies that affect women's health, the biggest—and sadly, often most silent—threat is heart disease, responsible for the deaths of one in four women.
While the jury is out on what, exactly, causes heart disease–genetics, diet, lifestyle choices, or a combination of these—one thing is clear, according to a new study: not enough women are seeking timely treatment for symptoms of heart attack (shortness of breath; chest pain; dizziness), mostly because they're afraid of seeming like hypochondriacs.
"We need to do a better job of empowering women to share their concerns and symptoms," Lichtman [study author and associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health] says.
And medical professionals may need to do a better job of listening, she adds. Several women reported that their doctors initially misdiagnosed the pain, assuming that the women were suffering from acid reflux or gas.
This study also highlights the importance of empowering women to speak up about their worries, says. Dr. Jennifer Tremmel, a cardiologist at Stanford University.
"It's interesting because the whole idea of female hysteria dates back to ancient times," Tremmel says. "This is an ongoing issue in the medical field, and we all have to empower women patients, so they know that they need to not be so worried about going to the hospital if they're afraid there's something wrong."
As anyone who's suffered from a health blow can attest—myself included—you really can and do feel like a pain in the ass when you know instinctively that something isn't right, but a doctor, no matter how well-intentioned, waves you off. As evidenced above, though, sticking to your guns and vocalizing your needs if you're not feeling well can literally save your life.
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