Contrary to the popular belief that heart attack symptoms are different in both sexes, the findings of a new study suggest that women tended to experience chest pains similar to their male counterparts when they had heart attacks.

Though, experts found a few distinctions, there were no gender specific patterns which could be used to help improve heart attack diagnosis in women.

Details of the study
The objective of the study was to examine whether sex-specific chest pain characteristics (CPCs) helps physicians differentiate women with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), from those with other causes of chest pain.

Swiss researchers from the University Hospital Basel looked at nearly 2,500 adults (800 women and 1,700 men) suffering from severe chest pain who went into one of the nine emergency rooms of hospitals in Switzerland, Spain and Italy from April 2006 through August 2012.

For the purpose of the study, medics examined 34 CPCs, including location, breathing, onset, severity and pain radiation to various parts of the body. Patients also furnished information pertaining to their medical history and underwent a physical exam and diagnostic tests (electrocardiogram and cardiac troponin test, a blood test to assess levels of troponin, a protein released when the heart muscle is damaged).

Revelations of the study
It was noted that 143 women (18 percent) and 369 men (22 percent) with chest pain suffered a heart attack. The study found most of the characteristics examined did not differentiate a heart attack from other causes of acute chest pain. Out of the 34 CPCs evaluated only three (related to pain, duration and decreasing pain intensity) appeared to be linked to sex-specific diagnosis of heart attacks.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City stated, “Doctors must be much more aggressive in trying to diagnose heart disease through EKG and troponins, because without those objective data it’s very hard to tell it’s a woman’s heart.

“None of the chest pain characteristics were helpful in differentiating [heart attack] from other causes of chest pain. If a woman had chest pain, it was very difficult to determine if that chest pain was her heart.”

Their findings are published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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