The greatest risk factor for having a heart attack could be… your doctor

Heart disease is the single biggest killer of Australian women yet a dangerous assumption could be putting us all at

Heart disease is the single biggest killer of Australian women yet a dangerous assumption could be putting us all at risk. And, frighteningly, those who should least be affected by assumptions are the ones who put us in danger.

Two studies have emerged that women are less likely to be warned about the dangers of heart disease because their doctors think of is as a “man’s disease”.

Even when women with high cholesterol, diabetes or other known risk factors presented to their doctors, they were 11 per cent less likely to be warned about the condition than their male counterparts by doctors and other healthcare professionals.

The second study showed that women fared no better at the hospital. When they arrived at hospital, suffering from the worst kind of heart attack, known as ST-elevation myocardial infarction, women were less likely to receive a lifesaving procedure in which a tiny balloon and a wire stent is inserted into clogged heart arteries, making them more likely to die in hospital than men, the study found.

The studies were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Erica Leifheit-Limson from the Yale School of Public Health, said this could be happening because prevention strategies target men or that the risks aren’t being communicated effectively enough to women.

But we can’t blame our health professionals entirely. Analysis of 630,000 heart attack patients found women were less likely to have complained or described symptoms that would have alerted someone to the fact they were experiencing a heart attack.

Experts theorised this could be a case of women “not wanting to inconvenience anyone”.

The Australian Heart Foundation says warning signs of a heart attack vary from person to person and may not always be sudden or severe.

Although chest pain or discomfort is the most common symptom, some people will not experience chest pain at all. Symptoms may include pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in one or more parts of the upper body including chest, neck, jaw, arm(s), shoulder(s) or back in combination with other symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness or a cold sweat.

Have you had any experience with a heart attack? What signs did you or your loved one show? Does your doctor talk to you about your risk? 


  1. Absolutely! When I went with significant cardiac symptoms, my previous male GP, and then male cardiologist told me I was menopausal and “symptoms that you could expect at your age”. (53!). Changed to a female GP, and female cardiologist who diagnosed correctly – I am now on my second pacemaker and defibrillator, still working and enjoying life. You have to push your own barrow hard. Don’t fall for the kind of patronising claptrap that some doctors dish out.

    • Doctors are human too. If you are not happy with one then seek the opinion of another

    • Hi Helen Absolon. No, different type of problem. I had caught whooping cough and the virus affected my heart by whacking the electrics out of sync.

  2. Nearly five years ago, in the evening I felt quite unwell – had shortness of breath, felt tight in my throat & a general heavy feeling. As I live on my own in a semi rural area I decided to ring & speak to an ambulance officer, but of course an ambulance arrived at my door & was whisked to hospital. Within two days a stent was inserted . LADIES

    • Hi Lorraine Gould would you write us an article about your hart scare and submit it to Starts at 60 for publishing?

    • I was lucky my pain ended up being gall bladder trouble and I felt silly about calling for help, but everyone at the hospital said the same thing “don’t hesitate to get help, better safe than dead”

  3. It isn’t only males who are a problem. My (previous ) female doctor kept ignoring me when I complained of periodic chest pain. When I turned up at the hospital suffering a full on heart attack the female triage nurse told me I was not having a heart attack and made me sit in the waiting room for and hour and a half. Fortunately for me another nurse came out and took me in for an ecg. Within 2 minutes of going on the machine I was being rushed to surgery. Please folks it doesn’t matter if you are male or female if you are having any problems which you suspect could be your heart DEMAND they give you an ecg.

  4. My father had a heart attack, aged 56 years, at hone and died. His death certificate showed myocardial infarction. His brother, aged 55, also died at home of a heart attack.

    • I am now 67 and doing fine Karen. I have had a few stress tests done and the last one, last year, they said I was extremely fit for someone of my age.

  5. Totally agree. Approximately 6 weeks ago I started experiencing a very ‘odd sensation’ in my neck jaw, across my shoulders and down both arms. It wasn’t a pain and not in my chest. It happened mostly after I had a shower and sometimes after exertion. I, stupidly, ignored it as it was not associated with chest symptoms. How very foolish was I. 3 weeks ago I had a coronary artery stent inserted into an artery that was 80 percent blocked. What a shock! I never in my wildest dreams thought the ‘odd sensation’ was angina and that a heart attack would be next. I am female, 63, not overweight, work full time, healthy, active with no family history of heart problems but a smoker. I am now an ex smoker. I have a wonderful family and count myself very lucky to be here with them. SO PLEASE don’t discount any pain. Get help. I am so blessed.

  6. I had a massive heart attack just 5 months ago – myocardial infarction – very sudden excruciating pain across my back ONLY but within seconds cold sweat, pins and needles in both hands heading upwards – in a shop, they called ambulance, straight in for op! My cardiologist saved my life by inserting two stents into my 100 percent blocked main arteries!!!! Very, very lucky lady I am!!!!! God bless cardiologists NEVER IGNORE SEVERE PAIN – YOU MAY BE HAVING A HEART ATTACK – GET HELP IMMEDIATELY!!!!

    • Hi beautiful,sorry for invading your privacy… i am general leroy petry,i love your comment and i would love to be your friend, i am really interested to know more about you and i look forward to seeing your friend request if okay by you God bless

  7. I am not even going to read this because the explanations which could be written in one sentence usually takes a page andI just don’t have time for more advertisements thanks anyway

  8. Have I had any experience with a heart attack? No

    What signs did I or my loved one show? NA.

    Does my doctor talk to me about my risk? Rarely B|

  9. All women over 50 should have a stress test, fasting cholesterol and risk factor for heart attack / stroke assessment.
    40 if either parent had heart attack , bypass or Stent before they were 50.
    Still too many GPs do not recognize the ‘atypical’ symptoms women or men may experience leading to a heart attack.q
    *Tightness around chest area rather than pain.
    *Aching arm.
    *throat tightness and sudden short of breathe.
    *Pale, sweaty, dizzy with no discernible pain.
    ** if you wake suddenly in the night feeling nauseated with chest tightness do not ignore it as food poisoning.
    It could be a heart attack.
    Better to check.
    ECG changes do not always show up immediately.
    Blood test etc required.
    Remember, almost half of first time heart attacks do not make it to hospital!!
    Plenty of people who survive are shocked to discover they had 2 or more arteries blocked.
    They could have dropped dead with no warnings at any time.

  10. So true, and that was my reason for switching GPs. For a very long time I had this tiredness and symtoms, that just was not going away. Then all of a sudden, just going for my daily walk, became a struggle. So I saw a new GP – a lady – and because my BP was out of sorts as well, she sent me for a heart scan and stress test. Discovered I have Aortic Valve Regurgitation. Apparently not too bad, however she can’t explain why I am so tired!! So now I will insist on seeing a heart specialist, because I don’t want to become a statistic!!!

    • Helen, what is a Aortic valve regurgitation?, is it just a blockage of the arteries ? Or something else. Pls because I’m feeling a bit palpitating lately and I walk a lot and I’m a big concerns. I have to book for the Hosp, there they will put an equipment on me to observe me for 24 hrs and from there will see what’s wrong!

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