Women experience lesser-known heart attack symptoms

They found that majority of both men and women in the study reported chest pain, tightness, pressure, or discomfort as main symptoms of heart attack.

Eight per cent of women who complain about chest pain but are reassured by doctors not to worry actually have scars on their heart, which indicate they experienced a heart attack, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health, led by investigators at the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, US. Yet women were more likely than men to report other associated symptoms of heart attack, such as indigestion, shortness of breath, palpitations, or pain in the jaw, neck, or arms. However, 53% of women reported that their provider did not think these symptoms were heart-related, compared with 37% of men (P .001). “Given the increased mortality associated with premature acute MI in women, it is critical to fully investigate the number and type of acute symptoms of heart disease in young patients and explore how symptom recognition influences patients’ care-seeking behaviors and early interactions with healthcare providers, as well”.

The researchers found that women were more likely to present with at least three associated symptoms than men (women, 61.9%; men, 54.8%; P .001).

Previous studies have shown that women are more likely to experience a wider range of symptoms for heart attacks, and are more likely to die in a hospital caused by the same.

“Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, ” said Nieca Goldberg, from New York University’s Langone Medical Center. She added, “They may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue”.

“An important point is that these young women all had multiple cardiac risk factors prior to their AMI”, says Gail D’Onofrio, coauthor of the study and chair of the emergency medicine department at Yale School of Medicine.