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Doctors “misdiagnosing CHD in older women”

6 September 2007

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Doctors may need more training as many are not assessing how old women are when they consider diagnosing coronary heart disease (CHD), a new study claims.

Female doctors were found to be particularly poor at assessing age, and this can cause delays in the problem being identified, the researchers added.

Some 112 doctors from England and the US were shown videos of actors playing patients of various ages and sexes who all gave case histories that clearly indicated a diagnosis of CHD.

Some 81% of the male doctors said they included age as a diagnostic factor for the men they saw, but only 63% mentioned it as a factor for female patients.

And 91% of the female doctors reported age as an issue in the male patients, but only 50% did so in females.

The study, published in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness, claims both male and female doctors often search for psychological explanations for a woman’s health problems.

Lead researcher Dr Ann Adams said: “CHD is more common in men. According to the latest British Heart Foundation figures, around one in four older men over the age of 75 live with the condition.

“For younger women it is less common, but over the age of 75 the figure rises to one in five women living with CHD.

“We need to raise awareness about the importance of increasing age as a risk factor for CHD amongst women, to reduce delays in diagnosis.”

Copyright © PA Business 2007

The Sociology of Health and Illness

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