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Women and Heart Disease Facts: Key Things to Remember

» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln cardiac specialist.

When it comes to diagnosis and treatment for heart disease, women should be medically assessed in a way that differs from men. Here's why:

  • Women are more likely to experience what are called "atypical" symptoms. In other words, these symptoms are not commonly thought of as related to the heart. For example, at the onset of a heart attack, women may feel fatigue, nausea or discomfort in the neck, shoulder, upper back or abdomen. These symptoms can be vague and subtle. Discomfort may not seem severe.
  • Because heart disease symptoms in women are more subtle, women are less likely to seek medical attention for their symptoms.
  • Women tend to wait longer than men to go to an emergency room when having a heart attack. Therefore, they are likely to arrive in emergency rooms after suffering much heart damage.
  • Once women seek medical attention, their symptoms are more likely to be misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, especially at the primary care level. Physicians are often slower to recognize the presence of heart attacks in women because "characteristic" patterns of chest pain and EKG abnormalities are less frequently apparent.
  • Women have a higher occurrence than men of chest pain that is not caused by heart disease. For example, chest pain can originate from a spasm of the esophagus. As accredited Chest Pain Centers, John C. Lincoln's two hospitals have developed extensive experience in determining the sources of chest pain among patients, so that we give cardiac intervention only to patients who require it.
  • Largely because of the protective effects of estrogen until the menopause, women tend to be 10 years older than men at the time of presentation with heart disease. Due to their advanced age, they exhibit a higher prevalence of risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol in the blood.

» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln cardiac specialist.