Women's health * Men's health * 50+ health * Healthy living

Heart attack symptoms in men and women

Zone default image Symptoms the same for both, study finds

The symptoms of a heart attack is men and women are very similar, a new study has found.

"Both the media and some patient educational materials frequently suggest that women experience symptoms of a heart attack very differently from men," said Martha Mackay from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, who led the study. "These findings suggest that this is simply not the case."

In the study, scientists monitored the symptoms of 305 patients undergoing angioplasty - a procedure which involves inserting and inflating a balloon into narrowed arteries to expand them. This briefly causes symptoms in the patient simililar to those experienced during a heart attack.

Researchers found no difference in the symptoms reported by men and women, including rates of chest discomfort and 'typical' signs such as arm discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, indigestion-like symptoms, and clammy skin.

While both women and men experienced typical or non-typical symptoms, women were, however, more likely to report throat, jaw and neck discomfort than men.

"Clear educational messages need to be crafted to ensure that both women and healthcare professionals realize the classic symptoms are equally common in men and women", Ms MacKay said.

She added that suspected heart disease patients should be questioned more thoroughly about their symptoms by doctors.

Heart attack warning signs (women and men)


This includes:

  • Sudden discomfort or pain that does not go away with rest
  • Pain that may be in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulder, arms or back
  • Pain that may feel like burning, squeezing, heaviness, tightness or pressure
  • In women, pain may be more vague
  • Chest pain or discomfort that is brought on with exertion and goes away with rest

Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty breathing


  • Indigestion
  • Vomiting


  • Cool, clammy skin


  • Anxiety
  • Denial

This article was published on Mon 26 October 2009

Image © beerkoff - Fotolia.com

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