Thousands of women are dying from strokes, as doctors miss heart failure symptoms because they are too well groomed and look healthier than they actually are, claims new French research.

Dr Pierre Sabouret, the project’s lead researcher and cardiologist from Heart Institute-Pitie Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, said that GPs and cardiologists were frequently overlooking, or sometimes slow to diagnose, the most common form of abnormal cardiac rhythm in women, increasing the patient’s risk of heart attack and death.

 “Too often [doctors] will think if a female patient looks healthy, and dresses smartly, and looks after herself, she is probably okay,” he said.

The study of more than 15,000 men and women, which took place in France where the level of atrial fibrillation is similar to that in the UK, found that women were twice as likely to have their treatment overlooked than men.

The research, which was presented at the Eurpean Society of Cardiology conference in Amsterdam, said the most afflicted group were women below the age of 70, who are apparently 56 per cent less likely to be treated for atrial fibrillation than men with the same risk profile. The study similarly found that women over 75 were 30 per cent less likely to be prescribed the drugs needed to treat the condition than men of the same age.

Dr Sabouret said that doctors should be following European guidelines on check-ups, which states that patients should be regularly tested for their blood pressure, vascular history and rapidly developing diseases such as diabetes.  

"The guidance is there, the problem is that doctors are not following it," he said, adding: “You cannot really blame the GPs they have a very difficult job and must understand so many guidelines. But there needs to be much better relationships between cardiologists – the specialists – and the GP. “

Dr Sabrouret also said the findings were particularly relevant to the UK, where research shows that woman are one and a half times as likely as men to die as the result of heart failure.