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Heart Attacks in Women—Are They Different Than in Men?

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Yes. A heart attack can be different in women than men. When we think of someone having a heart attack, we typically picture an older man clutching his breastbone and complaining of chest pain or pressure. But symptoms of a heart attack may be different in men than in women.

Furthermore, heart disease is the number one killer of women. Not breast cancer. Not lung cancer. Not accidents or domestic violence. Even worse, more women than men die of heart disease each year in the United States.

So, how is a heart attack different in women than in men? It turns out that women often do not feel chest pain when they are having a heart attack. Frequently, women feel only fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea or neck or back pain during a heart attack.

Women may have chest pain, too, during a heart attack. But almost half of women who have had a heart attack said they never experience this symptom. Unfortunately, women also frequently do worse after a heart attack and suffer more complications than men.

Not as much is known on how heart disease starts or progresses in women compared to men, but the National Institutes of Health has been researching these problems through a long-term study called WISE. An important finding from WISE is that women tend to have different types of blockages in the heart vessels that cause heart attacks. This may lead to different types of symptoms seen in women. A different type of blockage in women can also make it more difficult for doctors to find heart disease in women and prevent future heart attacks.

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EmpowHER Guest

Thanks Monica,

Good informative to the point article, well written and simple.

Paul J

June 16, 2009 - 8:27pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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