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Are You Heart Smart? Heart Attacks Different in Women Than in Men

By HERWriter
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Are You Heart Smart? Heart Attacks in Women Different Than in Men gstockstudio/Fotolia

If you had to list the common symptoms of a heart attack, you’d probably say chest pain and pain in the left arm. But if you are a woman, there are other, equally important warning signs you need to be aware of.

Heart attacks have received a lot of media attention. The problem for women is that most of the information provided is focused on the common symptoms and treatments for men. Heart attacks in women can present very differently from men, and may be more deadly than in men.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women. One in three deaths among women are caused by heart disease each year. That adds up to approximately one woman dying of heart disease every minute.

Women also tend to have a harder time recovering from a heart attack, and often have to stay longer in the hospital. They generally experience more complications than men.

Women may also be at greater risk of actually having a heart attack because health care professionals are less likely to warn women about risk factors, including high cholesterol or diabetes.

One study showed that in the United States and Spain between 2008 and 2012, women were 11 percent less likely to be warned about significant risk factors.

Another study showed that women are less likely to receive angioplasty or stents — two common treatments used when an artery supplying blood to heart tissue is blocked.

Because the signs of heart disease can be different in women than in men, it is critical for women to know what warning signs to watch for in themselves, and to be aggressive in reporting symptoms to their health care providers.

Be aware of these less-recognized symptoms of heart attack in women from the American Heart Association:

Shortness of breath

This can occur a few weeks prior to an actual heart attack. Be aware if you suddenly find that you can’t breathe while performing a common activity or exercise.

Back or jaw pain

Washington Post. Heart attacks in women can be different – and more deadly – than in men. Brady Dennis. Web. February 24, 2016. 

American Heart Association. Facts About Heart Disease in Women. Web. February 24, 2016. 

American Heart Association. Hard-to-Recognize Heart Attack Symptoms. Web. February 24, 2016. 

Washington Post. There’s a gender gap in heart attack care and it’s bad for women. Lena H. Sun. Web. February 24, 2016.  

American Heart Association. Silent Heart Attack: Symptoms, Risks. Web. February 24, 2016. 

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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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