February 21, 2012

Heart attack symptoms don’t always mean chest pains

Woman lying in hospital bedWomen are more likely to have a heart attack without any chest pain or discomfort, according to a new study looking at the difference in symptoms between men and women.

The research from America also showed that whilst substantially more men than women have a heart attack, a higher proportion of women died in hospital because of a heart attack, compared to men of the same age. The difference in mortality rates was the greatest in men and women aged under 65.

The study involved more than one million people and found, among heart attack patients, 42 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men arrived at hospital without chest pain or discomfort. This was specifically true of women under 45 but the difference became progressively smaller with advancing age.

Cathy Ross, our Senior Cardiac Nurse, said: “Contrary to popular belief, a heart attack doesn’t necessarily mean dramatic and excruciating chest pains.

The most important thing to remember is if you think you’re having a heart attack, call 999

“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.

“Younger women may need to heed that advice more than most because they appear to be less likely to have chest pains. Their symptoms can also be overlooked by inexperienced medical staff because heart attacks in young women are rare. More research will hopefully identify why there are such variations in the way heart disease affects men and women.

“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. It’s a reminder that we should all try to eat a balanced diet, get active and stop smoking.”

The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.