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Anxiety and heart disease in women

Chest pain and heart palpitations could send a person in Pennsylvania to the doctor looking for an explanation. If that person is a woman, however, the doctor might attribute the problems to anxiety instead of heart disease.

A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes compared heart function in women already diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to those without the condition. Women with anxiety showed a 75 percent higher likelihood of reduced blood flow to the heart when exercising. When the heart gets less blood, the heart tissue does not get an optimal amount of oxygen. This condition is known as ischemia.

The researchers noted that conditions like ischemia are linked to negative cardiovascular outcomes. One of the study's authors suggested that the women who exhibited signs of ischemia may have already had a heart condition without knowing it. Doctors might not have diagnosed them with heart disease previously because of personal biases. This bias may be creating a tendency to use anxiety as the explanation for all symptoms. This could have prevented them from doing more testing to check the condition of their patients' hearts.

When a doctor fails to take reasonable steps to identify a person's health problem and therefore misses a diagnosis, medical malpractice might have occurred. An attorney could review medical records for the patient to see if the case might meet the legal standards for filing a lawsuit. To build a stronger case, an attorney might enlist the aid of an independent medical expert to provide testimony. This information could help establish that medical negligence took place. If the patient experienced a worsened medical condition because of lack of treatment, then damages to cover medical expenses and other amounts could potentially be recoverable.

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