Chest Pain More Common in Women

Study Shows Women More Likely to Suffer From Stable Angina, a Sign of Heart Disease

Medically Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC on March 17, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

March 17, 2008 -- Men might have more heart attacks, but women are more likely to suffer chest pain as a potential first sign of heart disease.

A new international study shows women are 20% more likely than men to suffer from chest pain, known as stable angina.

Researchers say the results show the commonly held image of a man as the typical victim of chest pain is incorrect.

Chest pain is often the first sign of heart disease, and researchers say it's important for both men and women to find out what's causing it.

People with stable angina experience chest pain after exercise or stress that goes away when they rest. It is caused by an inadequate supply of blood to the heart muscle.

Women's Chest Pain

In the study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed 53 studies on stable angina involving more than 400,000 people from 31 countries.

Overall, 13,331 cases of angina were reported among women and 11,511 among men. The results showed that women consistently suffered from higher rates of stable angina than men, regardless of age or menopausal status.

"We were surprised to see this slight excess of angina in women, although it had been reported before in a few individual studies," researcher Harry Hemingway, MD, professor of clinical epidemiology at the University College London Medical School, says in a news release.

"What surprised us much more was its consistency," Hemingway says. "We found the same female excess across 31 countries, across four decades of studies, and across four decades of ages."

The implications of this study are important in understanding quality of care. Even though women appear to exhibit more stable angina symptoms, other investigators have shown that they are less likely to be referred for stress testing and subsequent treatment.

The prevalence of stable angina varied widely among the 31 countries studied, from less than 1% to 14% in women with an average of 6.7% and from less than 1% to 15% in men with an average of 5.7%.

Show Sources

Hemingway, H. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, March 17, 2007; vol 117.
News release, American Heart Association.

© 2008 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info