WHHI’s exploration of five themes found to characterize the experience of young women hospitalized with heart attack continues. In this post, we explore some of the reasons why young women hesitate to seek medical care.
In a recent study, several competing and conflicting priorities were found to affect a young woman’s decision to seek medical care. Participants cited family and work responsibilities, opting to use self-care instead of seeking professional medical care. They also cited anxiety about being perceived as a hypochondriac.
Unfortunately, this is something women have long struggled with when it comes to their healthcare. The traditional female role of caregiver carries strongly rooted expectations. As the caregiver, women often put others’ needs before their own—whether work or family—and may worry about how they will be perceived if they seek care for themselves.
When we look at the facts, women may get sick and can die because of these perceptions. And it makes no sense. Logically, a women will be a more productive, happier and ultimately effective—in any role—if she herself is healthy. When a woman’s health is ignored, those around her suffer too.
So let’s address these issues. Responsibilities to family and work are certainly important, but when they get in the way of your responsibility to your own wellbeing, the scales have tipped too far. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that values a form of sacrifice. It has become an expectation, especially of women, to work and fulfill one’s responsibilities through pain, lack of sleep, etc., without a word of complaint. This is not reasonable; taking care of one’s health is anything but selfish. Your health is what allows you to fulfill these other responsibilities and lead a full, happy existence. It needs to be a higher priority.
The other issue is that women may worry about being viewed as a hypochondriac for seeking medical care. No one should feel apologetic for being aware of changes in their body and asking questions. Information about your health is your right. If you feel intimidated or anxious, WHHI recommends asking, “Do you think this could be my heart?” It is a simple question that opens the door for further discussion with your doctor.
Ultimately, the change we are discussing is amplifying the importance women place on their own health and the confidence with which they will seek care. It is an issue too important to ignore.