Heart failure takes five times longer to diagnose in women than men- report | UK News

Heart failure takes five times longer to diagnose in women than men- report | UK News

Women have to wait more than five times as long to get a heart failure diagnosis than men – and female patients are twice as likely to be incorrectly diagnosed.

Men wait an average of three-and-a-half weeks after their first GP visit to be diagnosed with heart failure, but it takes more than 20 weeks to diagnose women, a new report suggests.

This could be because heart problems are seen as a “man’s disease”, professor of cardiology at Imperial College London, Martin Cowie said.

More female patients get incorrect diagnoses for their heart failure, the report suggests
More female patients get incorrect diagnoses for their heart failure, the report suggests

Heart failure, despite being “as malignant” as several types of cancer, is also not being prioritised in the same way as other diseases, consultant cardiologist Dr Fozia Ahmed added.

This could lead to further long-term health implications and preventable deaths, as well as poor mental health in patients, financial losses and career problems.

The report, carried out by charity Pumping Marvellous and Roche Diagnostics, showed that 44.5% of the women surveyed had their heart failure incorrectly diagnosed – compared with 22.7% of men.

It surveyed 625 people between the end of June and end of July this year – as well as analysing 87,850 NHS patients with a heart failure diagnosis between April 2018 and March 2019.

Professor Cowie, who is also a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There is a striking gender gap in the speed and accuracy of the diagnosis for women compared with men.

“Too often heart problems are seen as a man’s disease – and are not even considered in a woman. This needs to change.”

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Dr Ahmed, who works at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, added: “Although it is well established that heart failure is as malignant as many common cancers, relevant guidelines have not been implemented with the same vigour.

“This report supports the need for a renewed focus on heart failure diagnosis and access to specialists.”

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body effectively, because it has become too weak or stiff.

It does not mean the heart has stopped completely, but the long-term condition currently has no cure.

‘It was such a huge shock’: Mother-of-two was told her symptoms could be shingles before her heart failure

By Frazer Maude, north of England correspondent

Sarah Worsnop was diagnosed with heart failure at 42
Sarah Worsnop was diagnosed with heart failure at 42

Mother of 2 Sarah Worsnop was just 42 when she suffered heart failure three years ago.

For ten months before that terrifying episode she made multiple visits to her local GP practice and saw several doctors, who put her symptoms down to a variety of possible causes, including shingles and lupus.

Even as she was being taken to hospital, heart problems were discounted because she was young, and female.

“The ambulance came quite quickly. They said it might be sepsis so they rushed me to A&E,” she says.

“A&E put me in resus straight away because my oxygen levels were so low. Then a doctor came in and said ‘we’ve done a blood test and we’ve looked at your X-ray and you’ve got severe heart failure’.”

“It was like the bottom of my world had fallen out. It was such a huge shock.”

Sarah is now a Patient Ambassador for the “Pumping Marvellous Foundation, keen to raise awareness of what the charity refer to as ‘hidden victims’.

“I just think the fact that I could have been diagnosed with a simple blood test the first time I went would have made such a big difference,” she says.

“It’s simple and cheap, and could have led to such a hugely different outcome. I could have been referred to a cardiologist quicker, been put on meds quicker, I wouldn’t have had a severe heart failure episode and my prognosis could be so much more positive.”

“I’m not blaming the NHS or my GP. But there does need to be more awareness around this issue.”

Sarah’s advice is that if women do feel chest pains or breathlessness, or show any other symptoms, they should go and get themselves checked by a doctor.

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