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Women tend to ignore heart symptoms more

Toronto: Partly due to a perception that coronary artery disease is a "man's disease", women are more likely to delay seeking care when heart symptoms strike, a research has found.

"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," said lead study author Catherine Kreatsoulas from Harvard School of Public Health.

The study included patients with suspected coronary artery disease, just prior to undergoing their first coronary angiogram test.

In the first part of the study, the researchers interviewed cardiac patients about their experience of angina and their decision to seek medical care.

Angina is the pain that occurs when your heart does not get as much blood and oxygen as it needs because of a blockage of one or more of the heart's arteries.

This pain is often described as a pressure, tightness or burning feeling. It is a warning signal that you are at increased risk of a heart attack, cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death.

"Women stayed in the denial period longer than men. 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," Kreatsoulas said.

"Women displayed more of an optimistic bias, feeling that the symptoms would pass and get better on their own," she said.

This finding was substantiated in the second part of the study where women were one and half times more likely than men to wait for symptoms to become more severe and more frequent before seeking medical attention.

Other priorities could be taking over, Kreatsoulas suggested, such as women's focus on caregiving roles or even risk aversion.

Coronary artery disease is a leading cause of mortality for women.

The study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.

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