Heart Disease: Women Tougher Than Men?
Study: Women Underrate Severity of Their Heart Disease
WebMD News Archive
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.
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 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,
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
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
For both men and women, heart attack symptoms can include:
- Squeezing chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in chest
- Pain spreading to shoulders, neck, arm, or jaw
- Feeling of heartburn or indigestion with or without nausea and
- Sudden dizziness or brief loss of consciousness
Subtle heart attack symptoms that may occur, especially in women,
- 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.
Downplaying Heart Disease
The reasons for the differences aren't totally clear. Doctor's attitudes and
lack of awareness have been "leading suspects," says Kim Eagle, MD, in
a news release.
However, "no one has examined differences in [men's and women's]
attitudes," Eagle continues. Eagle is a professor of internal medicine and
the clinical director of the University of Michigan's Cardiovascular
"Although our study cannot prove that women's 'toughness' influences
their tendency to seek and accept aggressive care for their heart problems, we
hope it prompts further investigation of this question," Eagle says.