Heart attack signs differ by gender

Aug. 22, 2012 at 12:48 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Women's heart attack symptoms differ from men's, with women more likely to feel extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and back pain, a U.S. expert says.

Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, said a man typically experiences pain or pressure in the chest.

"Rosie O'Donnell's touching blog post about her recent heart attack spelled out the typical woman's heart attack," Bairey Merz said in a statement. "Rosie is doing a public service by making the public aware that heart attack symptoms are different for women."

Bairey Merz, who directs a multiyear, multicenter National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute study on women's heart disease, said although heart disease kills more women than men every year, women's heart disease treatment until recently was based on medical research performed on men.

The Streisand center is working to correct gender inequalities and to educate women on female-pattern heart disease symptoms, Bairey Merz said.

More than 200,000 women in the United States die of heart attacks every year -- more than those who die of all cancers combined -- yet many women don't know the gender-specific symptoms of heart attack, Bairey Merz said.

A study published in the journal Circulation, found common female heart attack symptoms include shortness of breath, weakness, unusual fatigue, nausea, dizziness, lower chest discomfort, upper abdominal pressure or discomfort that may feel like indigestion and back pain.

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