Women risk delayed treatment as heart disease goes undiagnosed

24 November 2015        

Doctor taking a woman

A new survey of our Heart Matters readers has shown women are failing to realise their risk of heart disease and aren’t picking up on the symptoms.  

We asked more than 2,000 heart patients about their experiences and found significantly more women had difficulty getting diagnosed, with many failing to recognise their symptoms as heart-related. 

The results of our survey

  • Nearly a quarter of women with heart disease (22%) described their diagnosis as ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’, compared with just 13% of men
  • Nearly half (46%) said they didn’t think their symptoms were heart-related before their diagnosis
  • A third of women (33%) stated their diagnosis was ‘unexpected’, ‘coincidental’ or ‘happened as a result of some other medical intervention or test’

Greater awareness is needed

Our results indicate that women are less likely to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack, and would therefore be slower to call 999 – dramatically reducing their chances of survival.

Our Associate Medical Director, and GP for more than 30 years, Dr Mike Knapton says: "Better awareness is vital. Heart disease is too often perceived as a ‘man’s disease’ which is risky because many women could be ignoring symptoms or attributing them to other problems, which puts them at risk of being misdiagnosed or diagnosed late.

“Heart disease kills more than twice as many women than breast cancer in the UK each year, and women need to know what to look out for so they can avoid delaying any treatment they might need.”

Our research into dangerous genes

Researchers we fund at University College Cambridge have identified a gene that could double the risk of heart attack or stroke in women.  

Your donations mean the team can continue their research into how this gene leads to an increased risk of heart disease in women. This knowledge could help researchers develop new treatments that target this gene and its effects on the body.

Advice and support for women with heart disease

Our Women and Heart Disease hub on Heart Matters offers advice and support if you're a woman living with heart disease.