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Heart Disease Health Center

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Women Match Men in Stable Angina

Chronic Chest Pain Is Equally Common in Men and Women
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 21, 2006 -- When it comes to stable angina (chronic chest pain), the sexes are equal, states a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when your heart muscle doesn't get enough blood. It's a symptom of coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease. The coronary arteries bring blood to heart muscle; if they get clogged, a heart attack can occur.

There has been debate about whether stable angina is as common or as serious in women as in men, note researcher Harry Hemingway, FRCP, and colleagues. Their study shows that stable angina occurs at similar rates in men and women.

Hemingway works at University College London's medical school.

No Gender Gap Found

Hemingway's team checked the medical records of people in Finland. They focused on people who were ages 45 to 89 in 1996.

By 2001, the researchers found more than 56,400 women and more than 34,800 men who had angina, based on prescriptions for nitrate drugs, which are used to relieve chest pain. Cardiac tests also showed signs of coronary disease in more than 11,300 women and 15,800 men.

In short, stable angina was diagnosed in about two per 100 men and roughly as many women during the study. Women and men with stable angina also had similar heart-related death rates, Hemingway's team also found.

"The subject of longstanding debate, angina in women occurs in the general population as commonly as in men, and its prognostic impact suggests that it should not be discounted as a benign or soft diagnosis," the researchers write.

Angina may feel like pressure or a squeezing pain in your chest. The pain may also occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It may also feel like indigestion, states the web site of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHBLI).

All chest pain should be checked by a doctor, states the NHLBI's web site.

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