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Disease Prevention

Heart Attack Symptoms Vary by Gender


Seeking prompt treatment is the key to surviving a heart attack, but if you don't know the warning signs you are putting yourself at great risk. You are also putting yourself at risk if you believe men and women share the same heart attack symptoms.

The American Heart Association offers the following information that could potentially save your life:

Symptoms Vary for Women and Men

Men are generally more likely to experience pain localized just to the left of the breastbone or in the entire upper chest. Others have pain to the left shoulder and inside the left arm to the waist; a common combination is pain in the mid-chest, neck and jaw.

Women may not have these classic symptoms. In women, a heart attack may reveal itself through nausea, vomiting, tightness in the chest or shortness of breath — signs that could be misinterpreted as indigestion.

Many warning signs associated with chest pain are similar for men and women, such as fatigue, pain at rest, shortness of breath and weakness. Dizziness is the next most common symptom reported by women, whereas men report arm pain. When a women's chest pain is related to her heart, the pain tends to be more vague than the type of chest pain men experience; back pain also is twice as common for women as for men.

Women: Heed These First Signs of a Heart Attack

Arm or shoulder pain; jaw, neck or throat pain; toothache; pain in the back, beneath the breastbone, or in the pit of the stomach.

Back pain — it's twice as common for women as for male patients.

Vague chest pains that come and go but fail to improve with rest.

Loss of appetite and shortness of breath at night, which are significantly more common among women than among men.

Combinations of these symptoms — heart attacks seldom strike different people in exactly the same way.

For more information, visit the American Heart Association's Web site at www.amhrt.org.


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