Heart attacks in women may not always cause the classic symptoms of chest pain and sweating usually associated with heart attacks in men. In fact, studies have shown that women can have undiagnosed symptoms which go unheeded for weeks, months or years and even physicians fail to recognize the warning signs unique to some women.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that chest pain, the most recognized symptom of a heart attack, was lacking in up to 30-37% of female patients and 17-27% of male patients. They also found that older patients are more likely to have a heart attack without chest discomfort.
Nevertheless, “because women are on average nearly a decade older than men at the time of their initial heart attack, the researchers call for more studies to determine the degree to which gender independently influences heart attack symptoms,” according to an article describing the study by NIH News.
Still, the original authors report that women are more likely than men to have other cardiac chest symptoms including:
• pain in the back, neck or jaw
• shortness of breath
• nausea or vomiting
• lack of appetite
• weakness or fatigue
Canto, J. et al, 2007. “Symptom Presentation of Women With Acute Coronary Syndromes,” Arch Internal Medicine.
NIH News, 2007. “Heart Attack Symptoms in Women—Are They Different?”
“Women, Warning: It Could Be a Heart Attack”; 4women.gov website
“Signs and Symptoms” of a heart attack, HeartHealthyWomen.org website