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Is heart attack pain different for women than men?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Heart attack pain

Heart attack symptoms of chest pain are the same for women as men, finds a new study.


According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there seems to be no difference between men and women when it comes to chest pain associated with heart attack, despite some research that suggests otherwise.

For their investigation, Maria Rubini Gimenez, M.D., of University Hospital Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues searched databases of chest pain characteristics among 2,475 patients from multiple health care facilities.

The researchers looked at 34 separate characteristics of pain associated with heart attack.

Among the participants with chest pain, 143 women (18 percent) and 369 men (22 percent) ended up with a diagnosis of acute MI (AMI),

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The results showed chest pain associated with heart attack happens as frequently for women as for men. The study authors also found other causes of chest pain for men and women were similar.

Types of pain experienced by people having a heart attack include:

  • Indigestion or burning
  • Crushing pain or heaviness in the middle of the chest
  • Pain that radiates to the jaw, back or left arm
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • A "squeezing" in the chest

The bottom line, according to the study authors, is that women and men with chest pain should receive the same diagnostic workup that includes EKG and blood work to diagnose heart attack. Chest pain symptoms alone are no help for determining heart attack that does not seem to differ between men and women, based on the newest finding.

JAMA Intern Med. Published online November 25, 2013.