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February 15, 2011

Women’s Symptoms for Heart Disease Often Missed

More women then men die from heart disease each year.  The list of differences between men and women is extensive, but one of the more underappreciated differences is in symptoms of heart disease.  With women, symptoms are likely to be much more subtle than the extreme chest, arm and jaw pain usually associated with heart attacks.  Because of this many women and some doctors don’t always connect women’s symptoms with heart problems.

“All of us were classically trained to look for heart disease symptoms that are associated with men, left-side of the chest pain and tightness, but women often show a different set of symptoms,” said Brett Fenster, MD, cardiologist at National Jewish Health.  “There is real danger to women if they and their doctors don’t think of heart disease when they exhibit these symptoms.”

Heart disease symptoms for women can include abdominal pain, shortness of breath, nausea, palpitations and fatigue.  These symptoms are commonly dismissed as indigestion, being out of shape, or other health problems.

Statistically more women than men die from heart disease each year.

“It is important that women who are at higher risk for heart disease get tested when they show these symptoms,” said Dr. Fenster.  “Women can also experience chest pain and tightness, it’s very important to realize that it might not be their symptom.”

National Jewish Health is known worldwide for treatment of patients with respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders, and for groundbreaking medical research. Founded in 1899 as a nonprofit hospital, National Jewish Health remains the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to these disorders. Since 1998, U.S. News & World Report has ranked National Jewish the #1 respiratory hospital in the nation.


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