FYI Daily

Heart Attack Symptoms, Risk Differ for Men and Women

Last updated:

February 22, 2012

Heart attacks are easy to spot -- crushing pain on the left side of the chest, right? Wrong, says the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study. Especially not if you're female.

Researchers looked at more than 1.1 million cases of heart attack in men and women, according to NPR, and found that women often present with totally different (and irritatingly mundane) symptoms, including shortness of breath, jaw or back pain, and nausea.

This is especially true for women under age 55, said the BBC, which can lead to younger women not getting essential treatment in time. As women age, their heart attack symptoms and risks generally get closer to men's, which might be related to a menopausal drop in estrogen.

Even then, chest pain from a heart attack may differ in intensity. Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, told the BBC that "Symptoms vary; for some the pain is severe and yet others may feel nothing more than a mild discomfort or heaviness."

So if symptoms are nonspecific and vary from person to person, but delay could be fatal, what should you do if you think you might be having a heart attack?

Simple -- just call 911. If you're having a heart attack, you get the medical attention you need. If you're not having a heart attack, you get checked out by attractive paramedics and are declared totally healthy. It's a win-win.

Watch out for these 7 heart attack signs that women -- and doctors -- often miss.