Symptoms of heart attack in women are not very different from those in men, according to a new study. The research was presented to the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2009, co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

Cardiac nurse Martha Mackay, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research clinical research fellow and doctoral student at the UBC School of Nursing and her team found that, there were no gender differences in rates of chest discomfort or other ‘typical’ symptoms such as arm discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, indigestion-like symptoms, and clammy skin. She said, “Both the media and some patient educational materials frequently suggest that women experience symptoms of a heart attack very differently from men. These findings suggest that this is simply not the case.”

The study found that while both women and men may experience typical or non-typical symptoms, the major difference was that the female patients were more likely to have both the classic symptoms of heart attack plus throat, jaw, and neck discomfort. She added, “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.”

Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, Dr. Beth Abramson, pointed out that women were less likely to think they were having a heart attack and are more likely to delay seeking treatment. “Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death of women in Canada. Being aware of the warning signs and acting on them quickly could save your life - or the life of someone you love - and minimize the damage to your health.” Dr. Abramson added.

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