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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Disease: Women Tougher Than Men?

Study: Women Underrate Severity of Their Heart Disease
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 1, 2005 -- Women may be tougher than men when it comes to handling heart disease, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Michigan compared 142 women and 348 men with heart disease.

The women's hearts were in rougher shape, but women and men gave themselves equal ratings for their heart disease's severity.

That "toughness" could be risky.

"If women do not perceive that their cardiac disease is severe, then they may not pursue medical evaluation, treatment, or rehabilitation," write David Nau, PharmD, PhD, and colleagues.

The report appears in The American Journal of Medicine.

Unequal Care

Heart disease is a leading cause of death for men and women alike. Studies have repeatedly noted differences in heart care for women and men.

For instance, a study presented in November showed that women at high risk of a heart attack were less likely than their male peers to get certain heart tests and treatmentsless likely than their male peers to get certain heart tests and treatments.

In September, a study done in Dublin, Ireland, showed that when men and women went to Dublin emergency rooms because of possible heart attacks, women waited longer for evaluation and carewomen waited longer for evaluation and care.

Last January, British researchers reported that women's heart attacks are less likely to be diagnosed than men's heart attacksless likely to be diagnosed than men's heart attacks.

Safeguarding Your Heart

Many heart risks can be prevented or treated. See your doctor for any questions about your heart's health, and call 911 immediately at any sign of a heart attack.

For both men and women, heart attack symptoms can include:

  • Squeezing chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Tightness in chest
  • Pain spreading to shoulders, neck, arm, or jaw
  • Feeling of heartburn or indigestion with or without nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness or brief loss of consciousness

    Subtle heart attack symptoms that may occur, especially in women, include:

  • Indigestion or gas-like pain
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades
  • Recurring chest discomfort
  • Sense of impending doom

    However, both men and women can experience "atypical" heart attack symptoms. So always call 911 and let an expert figure out whether a heart attack has occurred.

    It's a timely topic, as other researchers recently reported that December is especially deadly for senior citizens' heart attacks.

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