When Lorraine Kinzel had a heart attack in 2013, at just 44-years-old, she was as shocked as anyone – but doctors reassured her she was young and would bounce back to normal life in no time.
Within five weeks, Lorraine started experiencing angina symptoms of pain and breathlessness. For the next seven months she went backwards and forwards to doctors – even being taken to A&E by ambulance on a couple of occasions – but was repeatedly sent home, her symptoms dismissed as “panic”, and told she was perfectly fine.
Lorraine is one of the 35,000 women admitted to hospital following a heart attack each year. But a report published today by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) warns women are facing a ‘heart attack gender gap’ at every stage of diagnosis, treatment and aftercare. The real-life impact of that gender gap is shocking: the BHF estimates that, over a 10 year period, more than 8,000 women in England and Wales died needlessly from heart attacks because they received worse quality care than men.
Although heart attacks are more common in men than women, research shows women who do have heart attacks are more likely than men to die as a result. Coronary heart disease – the underlying cause of most heart attacks – is the single biggest killer of women worldwide, with more than twice as many women dying from it than breast cancer in the UK. But, as the BHF’s Bias and Biology report highlights, there remains a harmful misconception that heart attacks mainly affect men, and it is putting women’s lives at risk.