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Heart differences in men and women

New heart attack study findings

According to a study conducted in the US, women are more likely to die from a heart attack than men. The study conducted on more than one million people from more than 1,000 hospitals showed that fewer women than men display the classic symptoms of suffering from a heart attack.

A significant number of women do not experience the characteristic chest ache or pain symptoms that are associated with heart attacks. Without displaying the typical symptoms of a heart attack, researchers fear that women may not be getting the right kind of medical treatment for the disease.

“Heart differences” in men and women

The study found striking differences in heart attack symptoms displayed by younger women aged less than 55 years compared to those of their male counterparts of the same age. 42% of women overall did not experience the characteristic heart attack symptoms of chest aches or pain compared to 30% of men. The study also found that 14% of women died from heart attack compared to 10% of men.

The presence of chest pain or discomforts is the hallmark of myocardial infarction (MI) or heart attack. Recording the findings of the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors of the study report wrote: "Patients without chest pain/discomfort tend to present later, are treated less aggressively, and have almost twice the short-term mortality compared with those presenting with more typical symptoms of MI."

On the importance of timely management of heart attacks, particularly in women, the authors of the report wrote in the journal: "Optimal recognition and timely management of myocardial infarction (MI), especially for reducing patient delay in seeking acute medical care, is critical.” The study adds to available evidence that women can experience different MI symptoms different to men.

General awareness and vigilance required

Cathy Ross, the senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation cautioned that although rear, heart attack does not necessarily mean excruciating chest pains. She says "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 999.”

Cathy also advises younger women that they may need to heed to the advice more than most because studies show women tend to be less likely to experience the chest pains. "Their [women’s] symptoms can be overlooked by inexperienced medical staff because heart attacks in young women are rare.”

The public, health care professionals and doctors are urged to be more vigilant and aware that women could be suffering a heart attack even though they don’t display the typical chest pain symptom associated with a heart attack.

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