Myth-busting research reveals women who have heart attacks experience the SAME key symptom of crushing chest pain as men
- Experts have long believed women experience heart attacks in a different way
- It is one of the reasons commonly given for doctors missing so female attacks
- But new research quashes the myth that women suffer ‘atypical’ heart attacks
- Experts based at Edinburgh University found symptoms were in fact very similar
Heart attack symptoms do not differ between men and women, research reveals.
Experts have long believed women experience heart attacks in a different way to men – which is one of the reasons commonly given for doctors missing so many female attacks.
But the new research, by Edinburgh University, quashes the myth that women suffer ‘atypical’ heart attacks.
Experts found symptoms were in fact very similar – and said both sexes to recognise and act on the warning signs.
Experts have long believed women experience heart attacks in a different way to men – which is one of the reasons commonly given for doctors missing so many female attacks
They said incorrectly assuming that women having a heart attack suffer different symptoms to men could lead to misdiagnosis, delayed treatment and less intensive medical interventions being offered.
Previous research has shown the different in care for female heart attack victims have contributed to at least 8,200 avoidable deaths in England and Wales in the last decade.
WHAT IS A HEART ATTACK?
Figures suggest there are 200,000 hospital visits because of heart attacks in the UK each year, while there are around 800,000 annually in the US.
A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked.
Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and feeling weak and anxious.
Heart attacks are commonly caused by coronary heart disease, which can be brought on by smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Treatment is usually medication to dissolve blots clots or surgery to remove the blockage.
Reduce your risk by not smoking, exercising regularly and drinking in moderation.
Heart attacks are different to a cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, usually due to a problem with electrical signals in the organ.
Source: NHS Choices
In the new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers recorded the symptoms of 274 people attending A&E at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after a heart attack.
Chest pain was the most common symptom for both men and women, with 93 per cent of both sexes reporting this symptom.
Some 48 percent of men and 49 per cent of women reported pain radiating down their left arm.
More women had pain that radiated to their jaw or back and women were also more likely to experience nausea in addition to chest pain.
But less typical symptoms – such as heartburn, back pain, or burning and stabbing pains – were more common in men than women.
Researcher Amy Ferry said: ‘Our concern is that by incorrectly labelling women as having atypical symptoms, we may be encouraging doctors and nurses not to investigate or start treatment for coronary heart disease in women.’
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said: ‘Heart attacks are often seen as a male health issue, but more women die from coronary heart disease than breast cancer in the UK.
‘We need to change this harmful misconception because it is leading to avoidable suffering and loss of life.’