Heart attack – it’s different for women

By June Shannon Heart News   |   15th Aug 2018

Heart of the matter – Did you know that women experience different and more subtle heart attack symptoms to men?

At the Irish Heart Foundation, we aim to provide accurate and evidence-based information on heart health to help you make informed decisions about your health. One of the questions we get asked a lot is whether the symptoms of a heart attack are different for men and women, and the answer is yes, they can be.

Cardiovascular disease – mainly heart attack and stroke – is one of the biggest killers of women in Ireland, yet research carried out by the Irish Heart Foundation showed that less than one in five Irish women were aware of this.

According to Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director, Irish Heart Foundation, “most women think they are going to die from breast cancer when in fact they are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.”

Worryingly heart attack in women is often missed as the symptoms of heart attack in women can be different from that in men.

“It can be very hard to diagnose and that’s why heart disease and heart attack is often missed in women,” Dr Brown added.

“It can be very hard to diagnose and that’s why heart disease and heart attack is often missed in women,”

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director, Irish Heart Foundation

Rather than the classic version of a heart attack where someone is seen clutching their chest, the symptoms of a heart attack in women can be quite vague making it hard to diagnose. They can include nausea, tiredness, shortness of breath, back pain or tightness in the jaw rather than the more familiar scenario of a crushing pain in the chest that shoots down one arm.

One of the most important messages is to advise women, who are experiencing these symptoms, not to delay-call 999 for an ambulance and get to the emergency department immediately. Irish research shows that one of the reasons many women die from heart attack is that they delay in getting to the emergency department.

Research has also highlighted that doctors too have a role in recognising that women may have heart problems. Factors such as smoking being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being inactive or having diabetes and a family history of heart problems all increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

One of the reasons many women die from heart attack is that they delay in getting to the emergency department.

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Understand the symptoms of heart attack in women:

Not all these symptoms are always present. If only some are present, don’t wait. If you think you are having a heart attack, get help quickly and dial 999.

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Related Topics

cardiovascular disease heart attack heart disease stroke women and heart health women's health

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