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Women ‘suffering and dying’ because of inequalities in heart disease diagnosis and treatment

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Women ‘suffering and dying’ because of inequalities in heart disease diagnosis and treatment

Heart disease is killing nearly three times as many Scottish women as breast cancer.

But gender disparity between men and women in recognising symptoms and receiving treatment means “too many women are not aware they are at risk”, British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland has found.

BHF has released its Bias and Biology report, which highlighted the need to raise awareness of heart disease among women and found “too many women are dying needlessly or recovering poorly from a heart attack because they may not receive the same treatment and care as men”.

BHF found ischaemic heart disease (IHD), including heart attacks and angina, killed 2,600 women in Scotland every year. BHF said there were currently 100,000 women in Scotland living with IHD, but many women were not aware of the risks.

Golden Jubilee National Hospital director of research and development Professor Colin Berry said: “At every stage – from the moment they experience symptoms through to their rehabilitation – women with heart disease can face disadvantages.

“This has to change. We know that women often wait longer before calling 999 after first experiencing heart attack symptoms. But that delay can dramatically reduce the chance of survival.”

Berry said women with heart diseases were less likely to receive a timely diagnosis than men, and less likely to be offered cardiac rehabilitation to improve their recovery.

“It is incumbent on us all to work together to address these issues to help save and improve lives,” he said.

BHF Scotland policy and public affairs manager Kylie Strachan said BHF’s findings confirmed: “We need to improve understanding of the risks for women and increase their awareness of the symptoms of a heart attack.

“Women are suffering and dying because of the inequalities they face in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease,” she said.

“We must also promote equality of treatment for women with heart disease within the healthcare system, at every point in their journey.”

She said the Scottish Government’s commitment in the programme for government 2019/20, to establish a women’s health plan, was “an important first step” but this work could be “accelerated and amplified with the appointment of a Women’s Heart Champion.”

Symptoms of a heart attack include central chest pain or discomfort that suddenly occurs and doesn’t go away; pain similar to that of indigestion; pain that radiates down the left or both arm to the neck, jaw, back or stomach; and feeling sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.

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