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Heart disease signs in women put down to stress

New research has shown that symptoms of coronary heart disease (CHD) when stressed or anxious were identified as “in the mind” or psychological for women but genuine for men.

The study helps explain the delay by physicians in assessing and diagnosing women with heart disease. The research was sponsored by the Cardiovascular Research Foundation.

The heart disease gender study

The study examined the effects of a patients’ gender and how CHD symptoms are presented when the patient mentions they are stressed or anxious to their doctors. 230 physicians reviewed the reports of a man and a woman with CHD symptoms. Half the reports mentioned that the patients were under stress. The physicians made health recommendations based on the reports.

The results showed the physicians attributed symptoms of CHD in stressed women not to CHD but to stress itself. This did not happen for men.

The physicians assessing women with CHD under stress were significantly less likely to receive the following;

  • a CHD diagnoses (15% versus 56%)
  • a cardiologist referral (30% versus 62%)
  • a prescription of cardiac medication (13% versus 47%), than men.

Researchers conclusions

Dr. Chiaramonte, Clinical Fellow at New York-Presbyterian Hospital said, “For women, the presence of stress or anxiety drives the interpretation of accompanying symptoms so that symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath undergo a ‘meaning shift’ when presented in the context of stress or anxiety and they are perceived as a manifestation of the stress or anxiety and not as CHD symptoms.”


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About Kellie

Kellie is 37 years old and together with her brother Steve makes up the My Health Software team.

She helps on the websites and gathering news for the programs. Kellie worked in the medical industry prior to having her two children (8 and 6) and has a strong interest in self awareness and management of health conditions.


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