Gender-specific symptoms indicate a heart attack

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, February 1, 2012

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Heart attack symptoms are different in men and women, including everything from their severity to their onset.

Classic symptoms are severe chest pain and pain radiating through the left arm, but Dr. Jason Finkelstein, a cardiologist at Advanced Heart Care, said those symptoms are almost exclusive to men.

“Some women may not have symptoms,” he said. “With men, it’s more gradual symptoms before the heart attack, but with women, they don’t have pain prior to the heart attack; it’s during it.”

(See the graphic to the right for gender-specific symptoms.)

Finkelstein said he encourages everyone to “know their risk factors.”

“Those at higher risk are people who are diabetic and have higher cholesterol, sedentary people or those who don’t eat or sleep right,” he said. “Stay away from smoking.”

Finkelstein also said post-menopausal women and women who take hormone replacement therapy are at a higher risk.

“Usually women who are menstruating are really unlikely to have heart disease … it can happen, but it’s unlikely,” he said. “A lot of women are misdiagnosed when they are having a heart attack. It may be blown off as anxiety or stress.”

Finkelstein promotes a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of rest, but if someone is experiencing heart attack symptoms, they should get to the hospital as soon as possible.

“What we try to stress in the community is that you want to get to the hospital as soon as possible, because if it’s a clogged artery, you want to get it open as soon as possible,” he explained. “For every minute you delay in getting the artery open, your mortality increases by 1 percent.”


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American Heart Association
10900-B Stonelake Blvd., Suite 320
Austin, TX 78759


American Heart Association

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease

Office on Women’s Health

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