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Doctors Quick to Blame Stress When Woman Present Heart Disease Symptoms

Research shows that signs of heart disease are more likely to be blamed on stress when the patient is a woman. In two studies, 230 family doctors and internists were shown sample cases of 47-year-old man and a 56-year-old woman. Half the vignettes included sentences indicating the patient had recently experienced a stressful life event or appeared anxious. When the case study involved standard heart symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath and irregular heart beat, there was no difference in the doctor’s advice for the man or the woman. However, when stress was included as a symptom, gender differences emerged. The presence of stress changed the way doctors interpreted a woman’s symptoms, prompting them to suggest psychological factors rather than physical causes, while this didn’t occur in men. When stress was listed as a symptom, only 15 percent of doctors diagnosed heart disease in women, while they diagnosed it in 56 percent of men. These findings could help explain why there is often a delay in the assessment of woman with heart disease. To read the full story, click here.