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Heart Attack Doesn't Always Cause Chest Pain

Heart attack symptoms in women can easily be overlooked – because they frequently do not suffer chest pain, researchers warned last night. Experts called for greater “vigilance” of the risk to women. This trend is confirmed in a study published yesterday (February 21) in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Women are generally older than men at hospitalisation for heart attack, say the study authors, and also present less frequently with chest pain or discomfort. They examined figures on 1,143,513 male and female patients in the US and found that 42 per cent of women did not have chest pain on admission, compared with 31 per cent of men. The gender difference was even wider in younger patients. Younger women presenting without chest pain had a greater risk of dying in hospital than younger men without chest pain, the researchers warn.

Cathy Ross, a specialist nurse with the British Heart Foundation, 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. The most important thing to remember is if you think you’re having a heart attack, call 999.”

She added that younger women may need to heed that advice more than most because they are less likely to have chest pains and their symptoms can be overlooked by inexperienced medical staff. “Interestingly, smoking was found to be the main cause of heart attacks among younger women,” she says, “compared to high cholesterol and narrowing of the heart’s arteries in older women.”

Association of Age and Sex With Myocardial Infarction Symptom Presentation and In-Hospital Mortality. Canto, J. G. et al. The Journal of the American Medical Association February 21 2012 Volume 307 Number 8 pp. 813-22

Source: Englemed Newsroom

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