Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., striking both sexes with equal force, but a new study finds that women are more likely to delay seeking care for cardiovascular problems and put their health at risk.
The study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress this week finds women are less likely to go to a hospital in early stages of heart disease, when it is most effectively treated.
"The main danger is that when someone comes to the hospital with a more severe or advanced stage of heart disease, there are simply fewer treatment options available," says lead researcher Catherine Kreatsoulas, M.D., an epidemiologist and research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
For the study, researchers interviewed cardiac patients about their experience of angina and their decision to seek medical care. Angina occurs when the heart doesn't get as much blood and oxygen as it needs, causing chest pain, pressure, tightness, or a burning feeling. It can signal an increased risk for heart attack, cardiac arrest, or sudden cardiac death.
The results showed men tend respond to the symptoms of angina and seek care faster than women.
While men would consult with a friend or loved one more readily about the symptoms, "women would wait for others to tell them they looked horrible," says Dr. Kreatsoulas. "Women displayed more of an optimistic bias, feeling that the symptoms would pass and get better on their own."
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