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Factors contributing to misdiagnosis of heart attacks in women

On Behalf of | Nov 27, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

When it comes to heart attacks, there is a notable difference in symptoms between men and women.

This discrepancy can lead to misdiagnoses for women, as the signs they experience may not align with the classic symptoms commonly associated with heart attacks.

Atypical symptoms

Chest pain is the traditional hallmark symptom of a heart attack. However, women having a heart attack may not always experience it. Instead, they might have atypical symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or fatigue. Women’s heart attack symptoms can vary widely even among women and may include discomfort in the jaw, back or neck. Digestive symptoms like indigestion or abdominal pain can also be indicative. This variability adds to the difficulty of women recognizing or receiving an official diagnosis of heart attack.

The absence of chest pain can lead to misdiagnosis, as healthcare providers may not immediately associate these with a heart attack. Women experiencing it might also not realize they are in the midst of heart attacks because they themselves do not associate them with heart pain. This can lead to them not getting medical care on time.

Silent heart attacks

Women are more likely to have “silent” heart attacks, where symptoms are subtle or even absent. This lack of apparent signs can make it challenging to identify a heart attack, leading to delayed or missed diagnoses.

Communication challenges

Effective communication between patients and healthcare providers is important for accurate diagnoses. However, if women are not aware of the diverse symptoms they might experience during a heart attack, they may not convey this information to their healthcare providers. It is not uncommon for women to not mention some symptoms because they believe them to be mundane or unrelated to other problems. Without all the details, it is difficult for healthcare professionals to put together the whole picture.


Healthcare providers’ biases and stereotypes can also play a role in misdiagnoses. There is often an unconscious association between heart attacks and chest pain and heart attacks and men since there is a widespread and argued belief that men have heart attacks more often than women. In the past, there has also been a prevailing belief among healthcare providers of both genders that women tend to exaggerate their health conditions due to hysteria or being emotionally overwrought.

According to Pharmacy Times, a study revealed that women had a 2% higher chance of having an acute coronary syndrome misdiagnosed than men. Due to various factors, women are at a higher risk of a heart attack misdiagnosis. Keeping in mind how heart attack symptoms present differently in women than men can help prevent such misdiagnoses.

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