Chest pain is a classic symptom of a heart attack unless you are a woman, according to a new study. Women are less likely to have a heart attack than men, but they are also much more likely to die if they do have one. Could that have anything to do with not recognizing the symptoms?
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed patients seen at more than a 1,000 hospitals. Younger women having a heart attack had very different symptoms than men the same age, the researchers said. As many as 42 percent of women under 55 did not experience any chest pain while they were having a heart attack, compared to only 30 percent of men in the same age range.
This may explain why heart attacks are fatal for younger women more often than they are for men. And this study certainly highlights the need to educate women about the possibility of not having those "tell-tale" chest symptoms while they are having a heart attack. And, of course, medical staff also need to be more aware of the difference in symptoms, so that they can take women coming into hospitals with vague symptoms more seriously.
Cathy Ross, a senior nurse with the British Heart Foundation, said: "Symptoms vary; for some the pain is severe and yet others may feel nothing more than a mild discomfort or heaviness. The most important thing to remember is if you think you're having a heart attack, call emergency line. Younger women may need to heed that advice more than most because they appear to be less likely to have chest pains."
She added that emergency medical staff can brush off less obvious signs of a heart attack in young women, because they're not really the demographic expected to have cardiac problems.