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Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

A new study shows the symptoms women experience before having a heart attack may be very different from the symptoms they expect to experience.//

Researchers from the University of Arkansas interviewed more than 500 women who experienced a heart attack and were discharged from five different medical sites. The average age of the women studied was 66. Researchers asked the women to identify their symptoms before their heart attack. They also took other factors into account including patients’ medications, demographics, and any additional health problems.

Results of the study show about 95 percent of women reported having new or different symptoms more than a month prior to having a heart attack. Seventy percent of patients said they experienced unusual fatigue; 48 percent said they experienced sleep disturbance; 42 percent experienced shortness of breath; 39 percent experienced indigestion, and 35 percent said they had anxiety.

Only 30 percent of the women said they experienced chest pain in the months before their heart attack occurred. Researchers say many doctors still consider chest pain the primary symptom of a heart attack. Jean C. McSweeney, Ph.D., R.N., lead author of the study, says, "Lack of significant chest pain may be a major reason why women have more unrecognized heart attacks than men or are mistakenly diagnosed and discharged from emergency departments."

McSweeney says women need to be educated about possible symptoms that may be associated with heart disease, especially if they are at high risk. She says more research is needed to further explain her findings.

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