Younger women may ignore early warning signs of a heart attack, a new study reveals.
The finding could help explain why younger women have higher rates of death from heart attack than men in their age group.
“Young women with multiple risk factors and a strong family history of cardiac disease should not assume they are too young to have a heart attack,” said lead researcher Judith Lichtman, chair of the department of chronic disease epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn.
“Participants in our study said they were concerned about initiating a false alarm in case their symptoms were due to something other than a heart attack,” Lichtman said in a university news release.
Yale researchers interviewed women aged 30 to 55 who survived a heart attack. The study authors found that many of the women didn’t pay attention to early warning signs such as pain and dizziness.
The interviews revealed that wide variations in the type of initial heart attack symptoms, and factors such as work and family, sometimes influenced the women’s decisions to seek emergency medical care.
Not all of the women received an immediate or complete assessment of their symptoms or a formal diagnosis of heart attack, according to the study published Feb. 24 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. And some women said they did not take steps to prevent heart disease.
Identifying strategies to help women recognize symptoms and encourage them to seek prompt care without stigma or perceived judgment may be critical for young women at increased risk for heart disease, Lichtman suggested.
The findings show the need to better educate women about the early symptoms of heart attack, and to change the way that women and medical teams respond to such symptoms, added study senior author Leslie Curry, a senior research scientist at the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute.
More than 15,000 women younger than 55 die from heart disease in the United States each year, making it a leading cause of death in that age group, the researchers noted.