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Heart disease is frequently missed or misdiagnosed in women

Heart disease is a real lady-killer.

In fact, it is now responsible for 1 out of every four deaths among women -- and almost 2 out of 3 of those who die will have no idea that they even have a heart problem.

In some cases, that's because there's just nothing to see. In others, the heart disease is simply missed or misdiagnosed, with tragic consequences for both the woman and her family.

If you're a woman, what should you know about heart disease in order to protect yourself?

1. A study on malpractice cases involving heart disease revealed that primary care physicians are often responsible for missing the signs of heart trouble. Of the patients in the study, almost one-third of the deaths resulted from their primary care physician's negligence.

2. Cardiologists are equally bad at diagnosing heart disease in women as primary care physicians. They failed to recognize a patient's heart condition in another near one-third of the cases studied.

3. Younger women, those under the age of 50, may run the most risk of misdiagnosis, especially if they have atypical symptoms of myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) or other medical conditions that doctors initially blamed their symptoms on.

4. Death is a frequent outcome of a misdiagnosis of heart disease for women. A woman whose heart attack is incorrectly diagnosed stands about a 70 percent chance of dying. Another 28 percent will have permanent damage done to their hearts from the heart attack by the time it is caught.

It's important for women to recognize that they may need to draw a doctor's attention to the possibility that a heart attack is happening even if the doctor doesn't suggest it.

While it might be uncomfortable to feel like you are putting the doctor on the spot, suggesting the possibility of a heart attack if you think it is possible almost guarantees that the doctor will at least run a few tests to rule one out before proceeding with another diagnosis -- and you may save your own life.

Source: The Doctors Company, "Taking the Risks to Heart: Misdiagnosis of Heart Disease," accessed Nov. 24, 2017

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