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Even her parents had started to doubt her ("They thought I was being a drama queen," Mirza says), so she did her best to live with the mysterious condition, dropping sports, avoiding stairs, and sleeping constantly.
Still, she was fainting twice a week, on average, and was in and out of the emergency room up to six times a year.
By then, she was 23 and a bank teller in Cape Canaveral, Florida. When she awoke in a hospital two days later, the doctors told her that her heart had stopped beating and they had placed a cardioverter-defibrillator (a pacemaker and a defibrillator in one) in her chest.
Eventually, Mirza was diagnosed with long QT syndrome, a rare heart condition that causes chaotic heartbeats triggering fainting spells and even sudden death.
Heart-attack patients who never experience chest pain are nearly twice as likely to die, and in general, women under 50 are twice as likely to die from heart attacks as men of the same age.
That could be because even when women—particularly young, healthy women—experience the same symptoms as men, doctors are still more likely to dismiss them.
Cardiovascular disease is more common and deadlier in both black and Hispanic women.
Hispanic women are also more likely than white women to develop diabetes.
Studies have shown that female patients' symptoms are less likely to be taken seriously by doctors, and women are more likely to be misdiagnosed, have their symptoms go unrecognized, or be told what they're experiencing is psychosomatic. Martha Gulati, head of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, after hearing the details of Mirza's case.Most often, that's because doctors fail to recognize women's symptoms, which can differ widely from men's.Only one in eight female heart-attack patients report feeling chest pain, the classic warning sign in men; instead, 71 percent of women have flu-like symptoms.Rather than taking that advice, she made her way to the Cedars-Sinai Women's Heart Center in L. (now known as the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center), where doctors conducted more specialized tests and found three blocked arteries in her heart—her main aorta was 99 percent blocked—and rushed her into emergency triple-bypass surgery. "Had I listened to the doctor who told me to go on antidepressants, I would not be here today." There are also many diseases and conditions that are alarmingly more prevalent among women, and medical science has not discovered why.Women are up to four times more likely to have migraines and chronic fatigue, three times more likely to be diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, and twice as likely to have Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression.