Why Is Coronary Heart Disease More Difficult To Diagnose In Women And Why Is Diagnosis Delayed

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Doctors make a diagnosis of angina from the patient's description of her symptoms. Nearly everyone with angina has coronary heart disease. Very rarely, patients with other conditions may have angina but have normal heart arteries. Whereas men with coronary heart disease are more likely to have the typical angina symptoms of chest pain and breathlessness when they exercise, symptoms of angina in women are more often "atypical" and include back pain, burning in the chest, nausea, and fatigue: symptoms that would not usually prompt doctors to consider a heart problem.

In women, symptoms of both angina and a heart attack are more likely to be atypical and less obvious. Therefore, there may be a delay in diagnosis. Women with chest pain are less likely to be referred to a heart specialist and less likely to have further tests. If women's angina or heart attacks are not diagnosed, then patients will not have the right treatment.

Unless angina and heart attacks are suspected, the diagnosis and treatment will be delayed.

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