heart matter

Hi Everyone,

Since my 2011 AF diagnosis ( I'm in my late 60's) matters of the heart have been in the forefront of my mind - over the past four years I've read and been told by professionals and lay-persons alike that the symptoms of "heart attacks" are harder to detect and diagnose in females than in males. Does anyone have any thoughts, comments or experience in this?



16 Replies

  • There was an interesting article written a few years ago which suggested that diagnosis of a lot of problems/conditions was more difficult in women than men. It was suggested that because ladies always like to look their best, they covered up a lot of their outward illness by make up and hair care whereas men just look shit. Sounds about right to me as a mere male.

    That said ECGs don't lie.


  • Hi BobD,

    LOL - you're right ECG's don't lie! Oh, by the way I'm a gumboots,jeans and plaid shirt sort of girl - haven't been to a hairdresser in decades, hubby does a great job with a pair of beautifully sharp scissors. What's make-up?



  • Hi BobD,

    Forgot to mention - I have some delightful male mates who wear high heels, dresses and make-up with aplomb...



  • Like making my husband wait to go to Emergency Room while I straighten my frizzy hair?

  • Hi Musetta

    It’s definitely a tricky one as the symptoms for women can differ quite significantly; women are not just physically mini men and although some get the classic chest pain, women get this less often than men. As for ECG’s not lying well I had an ECG that said I’d had an MI at the end of my ablation (and being woken from GA to 6 concerned faces demanding to know if you have any chest pain and having no breath at all). I had an urgent angiogram and no blockages were found and this has been attributed to ‘broken heart syndrome’.


    Also in the last month I woke in the night drenched in cold sweat and extremely nauseous; and although when the ambulance came and they blue lighted me away and they had an ECG that didn't suggest a heart attack they still performed the blood tests to confirm (6 hours apart) to be sure. I was then admitted to CCU for 2 nights until stable.

    It is really important firstly to trust your own body and instinct and secondly put it in the hands of the professionals who can do something about it should you be ill with your heart.

    I attach a link to a website that is full of information about women’s heart health; rather than the cliché of over anxious women who dress too nicely for their appointments the reality is often that women will ignore cardiac symptoms so that they don’t make a fuss. The first time I called an ambulance I had to call my sister instead as it felt so alien (who like any good sister said now put the phone down phone 999 and I'll see you at the hospital). They can also get too easily dismissed by stereotyping them rather than being listened to and believed.


    Take care and keep well.


  • Hi HappyJo,

    Just curious - what's a "broken heart" syndrome - that surely is not a medical diagnosis? Who made that diagnosis?



  • It is caled Takotsubo cardiomyopathy can be caused by extreme stress or the loss of a loved one hence broken heart syndrome they thought this was my problem when first admitted to hospital I had never heard of it before

  • Thanks Mazza :)

  • I had it after my daughter died, she was only 5 weeks old. But that was 30 + years ago and many years before I developed AF


  • Hi HappyJo,

    Jo, not sure if my last reply to you went through - I'll try again...

    Thanks for the links, I'll read them with interest. I'm happy for you that the ECG's/blood enzymes tests were ok and that

    the angiogram showed no blockages - that's fantastic! However, if waking up in the middle of the night with the symptoms you mentioned,

    I'd be dialling 000 (emergency number in Oz) pronto, especially if there was chest pain involved.

    As for the boys out there who put most females in the " dress-up, make-up, coiffed hair" basket for medical appointments - that notion has to be laughed at.

    If I were in a medical situation that needed 000 or a drive to casualty, the very last thing on my mind would be my "appearance"

    Here's to good health and happy hearts,



  • I was gasping for breath and as I know now close to dying and all I could think about was I had to put a clean night gown on' before ambos got there ,my daughter has never let me forget it

  • I do not subscribe to the theory that it is the victims' fault - ie women.

    Biologically, we are the carers and life-givers and are inclined to be stoic about things which we feel are wrong with us but as Happyjo said, do not feel we should make a fuss about ourselves and try to cope as best we can.

    For my upcoming EP appointment, I am determined not to emphasise the positives in my treatment, at the expense of bypassing the small symptoms and worries I have. I think many women (self included) tend to underplay things - or that is how our responses and body language are interpreted all too often.

  • Hi Finvola,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Structurally, the heart is identical in both males and females. It seems a nonsense that when it comes to the diagnosis & treatment, women are often treated differently. As you mentioned - it does happen, which is a mystery to me.

    Keep well,



  • I sometimes think there is an element of profiling/stereotyping in diagnosis as has already been suggested. If you are not an overweight male aged 40+, you don't fit the bill for a heart attack. However, as Bob says, the tests don't lie - or they shouldn't.

    I think there was a study that suggested that it was doctors who don't take women's illness seriously not women themselves who try to hide it in whatever way.

    When I did cardiac rehab after OHS three years ago, most of the participants were male but very often they were fit-looking and did active jobs, so they didn't fit the profile either.

  • Hi Mrspat,

    I've had a brain drop-out!

    I thought I had replied to you but can't see it anywhere...

    I'll try again.

    Thanks for your reply.

    I agree with you there is an element of stereotyping when diagnosing heart/chest pain conditions in females.

    I wonder if in that study you mentioned (not taking women's illness seriously) occurs primarily with male doctors?

    If that's the case perhaps in their next incarnation they should take on the role of childbirth which might change

    their attitude to women's illnesses.



  • Just to throw things completely out of kilter, I did some work last year with a new lap top type of ECG machine which was being developed. This used two pads on which you placed your hands. I was instructed that when entering patients data it was important to make sure that the gender was put it as women's ECGs were slightly different than men's. For sure the height of the trace was always lower regard;less of an arrhythmias which may or may not have shown up. So no Mussetta women's and men's heart must be different.

    Cross dressers apart.


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