While crushing chest pressure could be a red flag symptom of a heart attack, women often do not have this pressure and instead may feel shortness of breath, pressure or pain in their upper abdomen, dizziness, or fainting, according to the American Heart Association’s website.
But it turns out, these differences don’t help much in enabling doctors to distinguish between a heart attack and other conditions such as heartburn, an infection, or a muscle strain — in either women or men.
Swiss researchers drew that conclusion in a study published online last Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine after reviewing medical records from nearly 800 women and 1,700 men evaluated in European hospital emergency rooms for chest pain indicative of a possible heart attack.
Women having heart attacks were less likely than men to report feeling pain radiating to their right arm and shoulder, the researchers found, and more likely to have pain radiating to their back.
But both genders shared a wide array of other chest pain symptoms, and doctors weren’t able to identify, based on symptoms alone, the 20 percent of patients having actual heart attacks from those who weren’t; they still needed to perform an electrocardiogram — to look at the heart’s electrical activity — and order a blood test to measure cardiac troponin, a protein that rises when the heart muscle is damaged, to know for certain, the study suggests.