Women, Do You Know What YOUR Heart Attack Would Look like?

Occasionally I am taken to task for my frequent assertion that ‘it’s still a man’s world’. What do you mean, people ask, surely you’re living in the past?’

Well, I don’t say it to denigrate men, (see my stance on men/women here). I say it because so much of what we take for granted as applying to both sexes has only been researched on men. This is particularly true in the world of psychology where a lot of early research took place in the workplace, and the workplace was populated more by men than women. (Flight/Fight is a classic example of this).

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Another example was in the UK press recently. About 15 years ago  I was working in a hospital when a new range of heart attack awareness leaflets were published. A male doctor told me they were wrong. Women have different symptoms, he said. Not for us the dramatic clutching of chest and keeling over so beloved of TV, film, and drama. We have a different slower response.

Recent research shows that still some doctors do not know there is a difference: women have been dying needlessly. Their symptoms have not been recognised as serious because the medical profession has not had updated material on how women react. Here’s an extract:

When looking at trends in mortality by age-group, the researchers found that mortality tended to be higher among younger women (aged 54 or younger) who presented without chest pain than among men of a similar age who presented without chest pain. (You can read more of this on the Nursing Times web site)

Doctors expect to see chest pain because that’s how men experience it and that’s how most of them have been taught.

And that’s a classic example of what I mean about it being a man’s world. I don’t want men to die of heart attacks and I don’t want women to die of heart attacks. I want difference to be acknowledged and valued and both genders given equal billing.

If you’re interested in this topic, and related issues, take a look at Speak Up! My latest course for professional women.

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Photo Credit: Nellart

Posted on February 28th, 2012 by

2 Responses to “Women, Do You Know What YOUR Heart Attack Would Look like?”

  1. Shona Easton says:

    This is a really interesting article Jane, thanks for sharing it. Quite scary to think so many women don’t experience the symptoms that are so well published! Let’s hope there will be more research into it for all us women out there 🙂

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