Women & Heart Disease: 5 Myths

  • Myth No. 2: Heart disease is likely to be milder in women. Damage to the heart is a serious health threat whether you are a woman or a man. In some ways, women are at greater risk of serious injury from heart problems than men. For example, statistics show that women are less likely to survive a heart attack than men. The reason for this is unknown, although some experts theorize that women do not seek out treatment early enough or that women's smaller hearts and blood vessels may be more susceptible to damage.  

    Women also are more likely to experience different types of symptoms associated with their heart problems then men. For example, women are more likely to feel unusual fatigue, abdominal, neck, shoulder or upper back pain, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath than men during a heart attack. In some cases, women initially ignore these symptoms, especially if they are not accompanied by severe chest pain. By the time they finally realize something is seriously wrong, significant heart damage may have occurred.

    In addition, a standard diagnostic test for coronary artery disease, the coronary angiogram, may not display the different pattern of disease development that occurs in women. Men tend to have large, uneven plaques on the arteries, while women tend to have smaller and evenly spread plaques that can be more difficult to spot. These differences may also change the type of treatment that is preferred for women, such as medication type.
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