Heart attack symptoms are often labeled as ‘typical’ in men and ‘atypical’ in women.
But in a recent study at the University Medical Centre Utrecht, researchers found the top three heart attack symptoms in both women and men are chest pain, sweating, and shortness of breath.
The finding shows that while symptoms can differ between the sexes, there are also many similarities.
The researchers say whatever your gender if you experience heart attack symptoms, don’t delay. Call the emergency services immediately.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. One author is Dr. Annemarijn de Boer.
Symptom recognition is crucial to enable fast, life-saving treatment for people having a heart attack. Some previous studies report sex differences in symptoms while others report shared symptoms.
This study compiled the highest quality studies — 27 in total — from the past two decades detailing symptoms in patients with the confirmed acute coronary syndrome (heart attack or unstable angina).
In addition to sharing the three most common symptoms, the majority of men and women experiencing acute coronary syndrome had chest pain: 79% of men and 74% of women.
Big differences in symptom presentation between women and men were also reported.
Compared to men, women were more than twice as likely to have pain between the shoulder blades, 64% more likely to have nausea or vomiting, and 34% more likely to experience shortness of breath.
Although chest pain and sweating were the most frequent symptoms in both women and men, they occurred less often in women, who had a 30% lower odds of chest pain and 26% lower odds of sweating compared to men.
The study did not examine the reasons why there are some variations in symptom presentation between women and men.
Previous research has shown sex differences in how heart attacks occur in the body, but it is uncertain how or whether this relates to symptom presentation.
The cause of symptom differences between the sexes deserves further study.
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