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Women with anxiety could face heart disease misdiagnosis

Some Oregon women with anxiety might also have heart disease, but a doctor may not notice it because the symptoms of the two are so similar. These were the findings of a study that was published Feb. 23 in "Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes."

Researchers concluded that when women present with symptoms that can fall into either diagnosis, such as shortness of breath, palpitations and anxiety, doctors should do objective tests to rule out heart disease before attributing such symptoms solely to anxiety. Women die of heart attacks at the same rate as men, but their symptoms often differ. A heart attack in a woman is often marked by a burning sensation in the chest and pain in the back, neck, jaw, abdomen or throat.

The study looked at more than 750 women out of over 2,300 patients. Study participants did stress tests as well as psychiatric interviews. The study found that women with anxiety had reduced blood flow to the heart although the same did not appear to be true of men. It is believed that this may often mask heart disease, particularly in women who do not have a history of it.

Time can be a critical factor in identifying heart disease or a heart attack, and therefore, a misdiagnosis can cause serious harm or can be deadly. A woman may ignore symptoms of a heart attack because she has never been told by a physician that she has heart problems. A person who has suffered from a missed diagnosis or their family may want to discuss the situation with an attorney. If it appears that the person failed to receive a reasonable standard of care, such as a medical professional not testing to see if heart disease is an issue, they may want to file a lawsuit.

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