The classic chest pains we’ve all come to associate with a heart attack is noticeably absent in many women.
“When women are considered atypical, they present very differently the classic heart attack symptom of chest pressure: elephant sitting on my chest, nausea, diaphoretic pain into the left arm - is what we consider a classic presentation,” says Dr. Robert Cross, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
These typical presentations are linked to acute coronary syndrome, an umbrella term that includes angina and heart attack. A new study finds up to 35% of women don’t report chest pain.
“Many times women felt they just had indigestion or if they had a cough or shortness of breath that they maybe had bronchitis. That’s how they actually manifested as their heart attack,” says Dr. Cross.
Researchers also found that women who showed up at an emergency room with atypical symptoms were more likely to be misdiagnosed and had a higher risk of death than people who reported chest pains. This reaffirms the need to look at broader symptoms.
“We can present them with ‘these are other atypical signs of heart attacks’. If they develop any of these symptoms, it may just be nothing, but this way if they have strong risk factors, family histories - some simple investigate work can be done to make sure it is not cardiac in nature,” says Dr. Cross.
Most common symptoms, other than chest pain include: weakness, feeling hot, shortness of breath, cold sweat and pain in the left arm or shoulder. Knowing these potential warning signs, may offer a window into a women’s heart.