I've been thinking a lot about women and the health system regarding heart disease. Last week, one of my 36 year old female co-workers passed away from what the coroner deduced to be a heart attack. It was so sad and unfortunate--they think that she may have passed away on a Friday evening, yet she was not found until late Sunday. That's always a nightmare for a woman who lives alone, no?
Over the past week, people have been discussing whether or not this might have been prevented. She has been going to the doctor for months complaining that her chest was burning and that she wasn't feeling well, yet the doctor diagnosed her as having acid reflux disease because she was overweight and young. I wonder if she was having a heart attack the entire time and the doctor wasn't taking her complaints seriously.
Something like this has happened a couple of times to two men that I know. My uncle went to the hospital and told him that he was having a heart attack and they sent him home because they said it was indigestion. Later in the evening he had a massive heart attack and luckily he survived.
My step-father had one heart attack years ago and a couple of months ago he went to the doctor complaining of chest pain and feeling faint. They identified that he was having a heart attack and he underwent a double bypass surgery. When he got home, he told the doctors that his chest was hurting and they told him that he was sore from the surgery. A month later, my mother finally demanded that they conduct additional tests and they found out that the entire month his other arteries had been clogged. The new doctor who performed another by pass told us that he couldn't imagine why the surgeon didn't see that he had another major blockage.
If this is what happens with men, I can only imagine that it happens more often with women.
I've gone to the doctor a couple of times, telling them about chest pain. My grandfather died of a massive heart attack when he was 29 years old, and my grandmother has had three heart attacks throughout her life. My mother was diagnosed with mitrovalve prolapse in her thirties, although she had been complaining to her doctor for years that something was wrong and he told her that she was "too young" to have a heart condition.
I've gotten the same mumbo jumbo from the doctors when I have visited in the past-I'm "too young" to have any problems. Once the doctor told me that it was just growing pains. (Which it probably was, but I still feel that my fears should have been taken seriously considering my family history). Another time I was told that it was probably stress. Nonetheless, I still feel that a test should have been conducted.
I've heard it said time and time again that women's heart attacks often don't manifest themselves in the same way as men's heart attacks. When women have a heart attack, we might have different types of symptoms. If doctors sometimes can't properly diagnose the typical symptoms of heart attacks in males, it is probably even more unlikely that they will identify untypical symptoms in females.
As females we've got to really know our bodies and take it seriously when we feel that something is wrong. If we feel that something is wrong, we must be very assertive in demanding appropriate tests. If we don't advocate for our health, no one else will!