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The Best Care for Women's Hearts

American Heart Association Meeting Focuses on Heart Disease in Women
WebMD Health News

Feb. 25, 2005 -- Research on heart disease has tended to focus on men, but women have hearts, too.

That's why the American Heart Association now holds an annual meeting focusing on women and the heart. Here are some highlights from the AHA's Second International Women's Conference, held Feb. 16-19 in Orlando, Fla.

Why Aren't Women Taking Aspirin for Their Hearts?

More than half of women with heart disease don't take aspirin -- even though the American Heart Association recommends aspirin for everyone who has heart disease or has had a stroke.

Jeffrey Berger, MD, chief resident at New York's Beth Israel Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed data on 1,364 women who had suffered a stroke. Only 43% of them were taking aspirin. The study also included 2,230 female heart attack survivors. A little more than half of those women (54%) were taking aspirin for their hearts.

Women were more likely to take aspirin for heart disease if they were older, college educated, white, and lived in the Northeast. The likelihood dropped for women who used Medicaid insurance, were black, or lived in the South or West.

Women (and men) should consult their doctors before taking aspirin regularly. Health care providers can determine whether patients are good candidates for aspirin treatment and determine the right dose.

See the full story here.

Are Women's Heart Attack Symptoms Different Than Men's?

Even if you are taking aspirin, it's possible to have a heart attack. The key to survival is early treatment -- and that means getting help at the first sign of trouble.

There are classic symptoms, like chest pain, but there may also be unusual symptoms, such as indigestion.

Both men and women can have classic heart attack symptoms -- and both can have less-classic symptoms. But there are differences.

People may have mistaken beliefs about heart attack differences in men and women, say Jill Quinn and Kathleen King of the University of Rochester's nursing school in New York.

Quinn and King studied 41 women and 59 men who had suffered heart attacks. Here's how the participants described their heart attack symptoms:


  • Pain, shortness of breath, fatigue. No gender differences
  • Right-side chest discomfort. 4.7 times more likely to be reported by men
  • Throat discomfort. 12 times more likely to be reported by women
  • Discomfort. 2.7 times more likely to be reported by men
  • Dull ache. 3.9 times more likely to be reported by men
  • Pressing on the chest. 7.3 times more likely to be reported by women
  • Vomiting. 3.9 times more likely to be reported by women
  • Indigestion. 3.7 times more likely to be reported by men


Men were also five times more likely than women to recognize their symptoms as being related to their heart.

Men took about three hours, on average, before seeking help. Women waited even longer -- four hours, on average. Of course, that's extremely dangerous. It's vital to get help at the first sign of a heart attack. Don't wait, even if you're not sure what's going on; let doctors figure that out.

For the full story, click here.

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