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Women 'display fewer heart attack symptoms'

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Women often do not present with typical symptoms of chest pain when they have a heart attack, according to a major study of more than one million myocardial infarction patients.

US researchers found 42% of women arrived at hospital without any chest pain or discomfort, compared with 30% of men. This lack of chest pain symptoms was particularly common among women under the age of 45.

Women were also more likely to die in hospital than men of the same age. The inpatient mortality rate for women was 14.6% and 10.3% for men. The greatest difference in mortality rates occurred among patients under the age of 65.

British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Cathy Ross said: “Contrary to popular belief, a heart attack doesn’t necessarily mean dramatic and excruciating chest pains. Symptoms vary; for some the pain is severe and yet others may feel nothing more than a mild discomfort or heaviness.”

She cautioned that the rarity of myocardial infarctions among young women meant symptoms were sometimes overlooked by inexperienced clinical staff.

She added: “Interestingly, smoking was found to be the main cause of heart attacks among younger women, compared to high cholesterol and narrowing of the heart’s arteries in older women.”

Kevin Fox, a member of the Royal College of Physicians joint specialty committee for cardiology, said healthcare professionals needed to be “aware and vigilant” that women could have a myocardial infarction without the “typical chest pain that we all think of as the main symptom”.

The study was led by researchers from the Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kevin Fox, a member of the Royal College of Physicians joint specialty committee for cardiology, said healthcare professionals needed to be “aware and vigilant” that women could have a myocardial infarction without the “typical chest pain that we all think of as the main symptom”.

The study was led by researchers from the Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

 

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