Angina in Women: August 19, 2011

“Angina is basically the heart or the body’s way of telling the brain that there’s something wrong,” says Dr. Stephen Lee, an interventional cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

The medical term for angina is cardiac related chest pain. It can serve as a precursor for a heart attack. The problem is the warning signs are sometimes tricky to read, much less heed.

“Symptoms can vary and there are people who have no symptoms at all, even with very critical disease,” says Dr. Lee.

Classic angina symptoms are: crushing chest pain, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, sweating and dizziness.

Diagnosing angina can be difficult in general, but particularly in women because they may not experience many of the common symptoms.

“Women can have the classical and the very typical symptoms as well, but they often don’t and so that becomes even more challenging for us,” says Dr. Lee.

Women may be more likely to suffer from nausea, shortness of breath or abdominal pain and describe chest pain as stabbing rather than crushing. This can lead to delays in seeking treatment.

“Often times it can be very difficult for someone to sort that out at home and if they are having chest pain particularly on a regular basis,” says Dr. Lee.

Another reason women are less likely to be diagnosed with angina is that they often minimize their discomfort.

“So the best thing to do is encourage everyone to get checked out if you’re experiencing chest pain,” says Dr. Lee.

If you think your symptoms might be a heart attack, your first call should be to 9-1-1.