Heart disease is one of the most common health conditions and a leading cause of death worldwide. Yet, despite how commonplace the disease is, it is still frequently misdiagnosed. And women, particularly young women, with heart disease are up to seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed. That’s because many women don’t experience the “classic” symptoms of heart disease like heart palpitations, sweating, jaw pain, and shortness of breath. Instead, their symptoms can appear more like indigestion or back pain. Unfortunately, many doctors are not trained to recognize these as signs of heart disease in women, leading to delayed diagnosis and preventable deaths.
Although it is more common in women, heart disease can be misdiagnosed in anyone. Many health conditions mimic heart disease symptoms. For example, severe kidney and liver disease can cause fatigue, swelling of the feet and legs, shortness of breath, and fluid retention. Symptoms of anemia and lung disease can mirror those of heart failure. The best way to avoid a misdiagnosis is to inform your doctor of any heart disease risk factors you have. Those include a family history of heart issues, underlying conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, and certain inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.