(NBC News) Heart disease is the nation's number one killer of women, yet it often goes undiagnosed.
A new study finds some women avoid doctors because of insecurities weighing heavily on their minds.
Nearly half of 1,000 surveyed women said they'd postponed or canceled doctor's visits because they wanted to lose weight first.
Dr. Noel Bairey Merz at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles led the study.
She says even in the offices of doctors female patients face gender stigma.
"Women are more often told to lose weight rather than actually take a medication or do something that would be helpful to their health," Dr. Bairey Merz explains.
A quarter of women said having heart disease would be an embarrassment because others would assume the woman was not eating healthy or exercising.
Physicians were also surveyed.
"Heart health was not a top concern among physicians," Dr. Bairey Merz notes. "A majority of physicians did not feel well prepared to discuss or to manage heart health in women."
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