'Missing' Angina in Women

Article published on 5th May 2008

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In 2006 a team of medical scientists from University College London (UCL) found that although Angina is as common in women as it is in men, doctors routinely under-estimate the severity of their conditions, often diagnosing them with 'softer' conditions.

Although approximately two million people in the UK suffer from angina, the research (which appeared in the journal of the American Medical Association) showed that women were less likely to be offered diagnostic tests to confirm whether or not they suffered from angina.

Angina is caused by a 'furring up' of the arteries leading to the heart, which in turn restricts blood supply and starves the heart of vital oxygen, resulting in often acute discomfort. These symptoms usually manifest during exercise and other sudden or strenuous physical activities. Around sixty per cent of people who have suffered heart-attacks have complained previously of angina pains.

Having studied the medical records of over one-hundred thousand angina patients aged between forty-five and eighty-nine, the UCL team discovered that two out of every hundred women in the age group developed angina as the first indicator of subsequent heart-disease.

Yet the research also showed that women positively diagnosed as having angina were still less likely to be called back for follow-up tests to confirm their condition.

Of course without such tests women with developing heart conditions cannot qualify for the surgery necessary to treat coronary heart disease and so the research suggests they are much more likely to die from their condition.

This apparent lapse in adequate healthcare for women can be put down to the fact that women are more or less protected from angina until after the menopause, leading the condition to be considered a predominantly male one. But from the age of forty-five and upwards, women are as likely to suffer from angina as men but tend to fare much worse. Female angina is by no means benign in terms of death rates.

The Government has stated that it is committed to cutting premature deaths from coronary heart disease by 2010, whether they succeed or not remains to be seen.

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