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Heart Attacks in Women

There is a growing body of evidence highlighting the fact that female heart patients may need different treatment from male ones. Their symptoms, for one, are often different. Cardiac symptoms can be quite different in women than in men, and this difference can present a hazard to women. The symptoms in women are much more subtle and vague than those in men and include tightness across the chest, pain in the jaw, neck and upper back, fatigue, breathlessness and anxiety.

Frequently, women having heart attacks will experience nausea, vomiting, indigestion, shortness of breath or simply sudden and extreme fatigue - but no chest pain. Unfortunately, it is easy for doctors to attribute such symptoms to something other than the heart. Women also are more likely than men to have "silent myocardial infarctions" - that is, heart attacks without any acute symptoms at all, which are diagnosed only retrospectively when subsequent cardiac symptoms occur.

Studies now indicate that women tend to complain less about their cardiac symptoms than men, so they may fail to alert their doctors to symptoms that really should not be ignored. Why they tend to do this is pure speculation. Perhaps women are more innately stoic than men, or perhaps they are tired of being told by doctors they are just anxious.

The women's major symptoms prior to their heart attack included:

  • Unusual fatigue - 70%
  • Sleep disturbance - 48%
  • Shortness of breath - 42%
  • Indigestion - 39%
  • Anxiety - 35%

Major symptoms during the heart attack include:

  • Shortness of breath - 58%
  • Weakness - 55%
  • Unusual fatigue - 43%
  • Cold sweat - 39%
  • Dizziness - 39%

Sometimes a heart attack can happen with no symptoms at all.

Although research has suggested that a heart attack without pain (chest, arm or jaw) may be slightly more common in women than men, raising awareness of the different possible symptoms of a heart attack is equally important in both genders, so that emergency medical assistance can be sought as quickly as possible if heart attack is suspected.

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Women's Heart Attacks

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