Symptoms of heart attack not different between men and women, finds study

Symptom recognition is crucial to enable fast, life-saving treatment for people having a heart attack, the study said

A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association says that chest pain, shortness of breath, and sweating, are the three top symptoms of heart attack in both men and women.

Dr. Annemarijn de Boer of the University Medical Centre Utrecht, the Netherlands, author of the study, said in a statement, "Heart attack symptoms are often labelled as 'typical' in men and 'atypical' in women." Dr. de Boer further added, "But our study shows that while symptoms can differ between the sexes, there are also many similarities."

Do not ignore symptoms

Whatever your gender, if you experience heart attack symptoms, don't delay. Call the emergency services immediately. 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 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 percent of men and 74 percent of women.

Differences in presentation of symptoms

Significant 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 percent more likely to have nausea or vomiting, and 34 percent 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 percent lower odds of chest pain and 26 percent lower odds of sweating compared to men.

The study did not investigate the reasons why there are some variations in symptom presentation between women and men, but Dr. de Boer said: "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."