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Heart Attack Symptoms Nearly Same For Women and Men


If you remember hearing that women have different symptoms of heart attack than men, a new study presented to the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2009 says that the differences are much smaller than previously believed. In fact, the researchers found that men and women have nearly the same heart attack symptoms with the major difference being that women are more likely to experience throat, jaw, and neck discomfort.

Being able to identify heart attack symptoms is something every man and woman should be able to do, given that heart attack is one of the main killers in the United States. According to the latest figures from the American Heart Association’s “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, 2009,” a total of 935,000 new and recurrent incidents of heart attack occur per year (565,000 men, 370,000 women) with 151,000 deaths (80,100 men, 70,900 women) per year.

The Canadian team evaluated 305 patients who had undergone angioplasty, a procedure that briefly causes symptoms similar to those of a heart attack. The researchers did not find any differences between men and women when it came to heart attack symptoms, which include chest discomfort, arm discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, indigestion-like symptoms, and clammy skin. Although both men and women may experience typical or atypical symptoms, the main difference between the genders was the women were more likely to experience both the classic symptoms of heart attack as well as throat, jaw, and neck discomfort.

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The results of this study differ from others that have stated that female heart patients do not experience chest discomfort or other symptoms usually associated with heart attack as frequently as men. One reason the current study may have found different results, according to Martha Mackay, a cardiac nurse and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research clinical research fellow, is that previous studies had some drawbacks. She also noted in a news release from the Canadian Cardiovascular Society that lack of effective communication may be a problem as well. She advises women to tell their doctor all of the symptoms, not just ones about which they are questioned.

Prompt disclosure of symptoms to qualified medical professionals is critical because it greatly assists physicians in arriving at a diagnosis and beginning heart attack treatment. Delay in making a diagnosis could lead to a poor response to treatment, a situation that is especially critical for women because they are 16 percent more likely than men to die after having a heart attack. Yet according to Dr. Beth Abramson, spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, women are less likely to believe they are having a heart attack and less likely to seek treatment in a timely manner.

As a review, here are the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack for both women and men:

* Sudden discomfort or pain that does not dissipate with rest
* Chest pain that is brought on with exertion and goes away with rest
* Pain that may be in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, or back
* Pain that may feel like heaviness, tightness, pressure, burning, or squeezing
* Pain may be more vague in women
* Shortness of breath
* Indigestion, nausea, and/or vomiting
* Cool, clammy skin
* Feelings of anxiety or denial

American Heart Association
Canadian Cardiovascular Society



Women can begin showing symptoms a month before the actual attack. If a woman you know is experiencing unusual fatigue, sleep disturbance, anxiety, indigestion, weakness in the arms, anxiety, and a shortness of breath, this is serious, and she must get to a hospital immediately. Fewer than 30% of women who've suffered a heart attack had any chest pain prior to their heart attack. 43% of women who suffered a heart attack experienced no chest pain during the attack! 58% of the women who experienced heart attacks suffered shortness of breath just before the attack. 55% suffered weakness, and 43% suffered fatigue. 39% suffered from a cold sweat, and 39% suffered from dizziness or lightheadedness. Other women described pain between their shoulder blades, or back pain .Men's experiences can be quite different. Most men experience severe chest pain that radiates through their arms, and, frequently, in their jaws. Men are much more likely to experience the classic "TV heart attack," where they grab their chests in agony. This is accompanied by shortness of breath, sudden weakness and trembling hands, blurred vision, fatigue, a cold sweat, and dizziness. All of these symptoms together are serious.