Women wait SIX TIMES longer than men for heart failure diagnoses

The deadly gender gap: Women wait SIX TIMES longer than men to be diagnosed with heart failure, experts warn

  • Women are twice as likely to be misdiagnosed with conditions like asthma
  • The delays are putting tens of thousands of lives at risk, a charity has claimed 
  • Heart failure is a condition where muscles are too weak to properly pump blood  

Women wait six times longer than men to be diagnosed with heart failure as it is seen as a ‘man’s disease’, experts warn.

Researchers found women are twice as likely to be misdiagnosed with a condition such as asthma or depression – and wait 20 weeks on average after visiting a GP for the condition to be identified, compared to three and a half for men.

The delays put tens of thousands of lives at risk, says charity Pumping Marvellous Foundation and Roche Diagnostics. 

Heart failure is a condition where the muscles are too weak to properly pump blood.

The delays put tens of thousands of lives at risk, says charity Pumping Marvellous Foundation and Roche Diagnostics (file photo)

Professor Martin Cowie, of Imperial College London, said: ‘Too often heart problems are seen as a man’s disease.’

The report, based on NHS data and a survey of 625 heart failure patients, found that one in ten women spent more than six months waiting for their heart failure diagnosis.

The ‘gender gap’ is due to a persistent misconception that heart problems do not affect females.

Heart failure affects 900,000 people in the UK. Research shows that doctors are more likely to disregard key heart failure symptoms – breathlessness, swollen ankles and legs, and increased fatigue – when they are in women.

More than two in five women are initially misdiagnosed, compared to just one in five men.

Delays also mean that tens of thousands of patients each year are only diagnosed with heart failure when they go to A&E, official data shows.

Of the 87,480 patients who visited hospital with heart failure in 2018/19, three quarters received their diagnoses during their first admission, including nearly half in A&E.

The report said that late diagnosis of heart failure takes a huge toll on the NHS and means patients miss out on potentially life-saving treatment.

Almost one in five patients who were admitted to hospital for heart failure died within six months of their admission.

The report said that late diagnosis of heart failure takes a huge toll on the NHS and means patients miss out on potentially life-saving treatment (file photo)

It said that a simple blood test called NT-proBNP – which costs less than £28 and is recommended by medical watchdog NICE – should be used more widely to improve diagnosis. 

It also called GPs to receive better education on signs and symptoms of heart failure, and for the condition to receive the same priority as cancer.

Professor Martin Cowie, Professor of Cardiology at Imperial College London, said: ‘This new report highlights some major issues surrounding the diagnosis of heart failure in the NHS. 

‘In particular, 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.

‘Thankfully, we have simple blood tests that can help point doctors in the right direction – with good evidence that this speeds up the time from symptoms first developing to an accurate diagnosis and the start of life-saving therapy.

‘We have these tools – and we must start using them properly right across the country.’

Nick Hartshorne-Evans, Chief Executive of the Pumping Marvellous Foundation, said: ‘Early diagnosis of heart failure can be the difference between life and death. Yet patients are facing a battle to get a timely diagnosis.

‘This report highlights the hidden victims of heart failure and reveals the stark inequalities that women in particular are facing, with symptoms failing to be spotted, drastically impacting quality of life and resulting in unacceptable survival rates.’

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