Thousands of women’s lives at risk because GPs dismiss heart failure as a ‘bloke’s illness’

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Thousands of women's lives at risk because GPs dismiss heart failure as a 'bloke's illness'



GPs are much more likely to miss deadly heart failure in women – because many view it as a bloke’s illness.
Even when they are diagnosed, they are still less likely than men to get the right treatment.
Getty – Contributor Women are at greater risk of dying from heart failure because GPs fail to spot the signs – because many view it as a bloke’s illness
Poor care putting lives at risk
Experts warn “sub-optimal” NHS care is putting thousands of lives at risk.
The Oxford University study looked at more than 93,000 cases of heart failure in the UK.
It found the majority of sufferers are being picked up late – only after sick Brits end up in hospital.
Delayed treatment dramatically cuts survival, with 20 per cent of patients diagnosed by their GP dying within a year.
But the risk rises to 36 per cent if the killer condition is spotted in hospital.
The research reveals women fare worse, with GPs nine per cent less likely to spot their condition.
They are also 13 per cent less likely to be prescribed two key treatments than men. Older Brits also fare worse.
Not just fat, old blokes at risk
Researchers claim family medics may be missing more cases among women because they regard them as lower risk and are looking out for fat middle-aged men.
Around 920,000 Brits have heart failure – with 190,000 new cases picked up each year.
It results in the heart struggling to pump blood around the body, and is the leading cause of hospital admissions for over-65s.
Traditionally cardiovascular disease and heart failure was considered mostly a male condition. But the same number of women are affected, just later on in lifeDr Nathalie Conrad
Victims struggle to breathe and suffer swollen legs. There is no cure, with many sufferers eventually needing a transplant or dying young.
Lead researcher Dr Nathalie Conrad said: “Heart failure is a severe condition and early diagnosis is crucial for doctors to rapidly initiate life-saving medications.
“Our findings suggest out-of-hospital screening for early signs of heart failure and follow-up are sub-optimal, and women and older patients are particularly vulnerable to these shortcomings in current heart failure care.
“GPs may not see women as high risk. Traditionally cardiovascular disease and heart failure was considered mostly a male condition.
“But the same number of women are affected, just later on in life.”GPs missing cases
The study is published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
It shows just 36 per cent of sufferers were identified by family medics in 2014 – compared to 56 per cent in 2002.
And only one in six patients picked up in hospital had their illness noted in their GP records the following year.
KNOW THE SIGNSHEART failure means the heart can’t pump blood around the body properly.
In most cases the heart becomes too weak or stiff.
The condition can strike at any age, but is most common in older people.
It’s a long-term illness, that gets worse over time and can’t be cured, but can be managed.
The symptoms vary from person to person, and can start very suddenly or develop over weeks or months.
Common signs include:

breathlessness – this can happen after exercise or at rest and can be worse when you’re lying down. Some people will wake up at night trying to catch their breath
fatigue – you may feel tired all the time and find exercise exhausting
swollen ankles and legs – this is caused by a build up of fluid and tends to be better in the morning but gets worse throughout the day

Less common symptoms include:

a persistent cough that’s worse at night
wheezing
bloated tummy
loss of appetite
weight gain or loss
confusion
dizziness and fainting
fast heart rate
pounding, fluttering or irregular heart beat

You should see your GP if you spot these symptoms, though in most cases they could be caused by less serious conditions.
If you suffer very severe or sudden symptoms, dial 999.
See the NHS website for more info.

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Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It’s important to recognise it can affect both men and women.
“GPs understand the importance early diagnosis and are highly-trained to look out for the symptoms of heart disease, but it is notoriously difficult to diagnose in primary care as its early symptoms are often vague and can mimic more common conditions.”
Jacob West, from the British Heart Foundation said: “Heart failure is a devastating, incurable illness.
“Nobody with heart failure should experience inferior care because of their age or gender – but this study highlights widespread inequality in care experienced by older people and women.”

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