Better safe than sorry, right?
Your heart does a lot of work throughout the day—routinely pushing 1.5 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels, for one—so when you feel some minor aches or pains, you might think that it’s part of the job description. But if you tend to brush off heart symptoms and assume the problem will solve itself, you might want to rethink your laissez faire attitude, says a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology. Otherwise you might run into some serious trouble down the line.
The study, which focused on interviews of 31 cardiac patients who had experienced angina (the chest pain that tells you that you are at increased risk of heart attack, cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death), found that women were 1.5 times more likely then men to wait for symptoms to become more severe and more frequent before seeking medical attention.
What’s with the waiting game? Turns out, it had a lot to do with denial. All patients, regardless of gender, went through the same six stages after experiencing chest pain: uncertainty, denial, seeking help from a friend or family member, recognition of the severity of symptoms, seeking medical attention, and finally, acceptance. The main difference between men and women, they found, was that women stayed in the denial period longer and were more likely to wait for friends or family to notice they were unwell, instead of approaching them with the problem.
Even though it is the leading cause of mortality for women, some women still perceive coronary artery disease (CAD) as a “man’s disease” and consequently don’t recognize their risk, according to study authors quoted in a recent press release. Other research also suggests that women’s focus on caregiving roles and responsibility might be at play, making them more concerned with how long they’d be out of commission if something was wrong, rather than seeking out treatment options.
It is important to note that the women in the study were between the ages of 44 and 84, putting them at higher risk for CAD. That said, age isn’t an excuse to dismiss your symptoms entirely; if something is wrong and you wait, there is a large chance you’ll have a more severe problem than you would have if you had heeded the angina’s warning sign—which will leave you with fewer treatment options. So if you feel pressure, squeezing, burning, or tightness in your chest, it’s worth it to get it checked out. It might turn out to be nothing, but if not, you’ll be glad you didn’t wait.
Author: Anna Borges