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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard Finds Women Dismiss Heart Disease Warning Signs More than Men

Women are more likely than men to dismiss chest pain that signals heart problems and to delay seeking medical help, even though heart disease is a leading cause of death for both women and men, according to a Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) expert.

Studying patients with suspected coronary artery disease who were about to undergo their first coronary angiogram, Dr. Catherine Kreatsoulas, Heart and Stroke Foundation research fellow at HSPH, and colleagues found that women appear more likely than men to have “optimism bias”—thinking they are less at risk for bad health outcomes than they really are. This bias may keep them from seeking timely medical attention and could worsen their condition, according to Dr. Kreatsoulas.

“The main danger is that when someone comes to the hospital with a more severe or advanced stage of heart disease, there are simply fewer treatment options available,” Dr. Kreatsoulas said in an October 30 Huffington Post article. She said it is possible that women are focusing more on caring for others than their own well-being, or perhaps have a false perception that heart disease is a “man’s disease.”

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