The medical community has made a strong effort in the past few decades to help women understand that angina, or chest pain, may feel different for them than it does for men. Since angina is oftentimes a sign of heart disease, it's important that women understand those differences.
"Heart disease in men is more often due to blockages in their coronary arteries, referred to as obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD)," the American Heart Association said
. "Women more frequently develop heart disease within the very small arteries that branch out from the coronary arteries. This is referred to as microvascular disease (MVD) and occurs particularly in younger women. Up to 50 percent of women with anginal symptoms who undergo cardiac catheterization don’t have the obstructive type of CAD."
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Typical symptoms of angina include, according to the Mayo Clinic
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain in your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back accompanying chest pain
- Shortness of breath
"A woman's angina symptoms can be different from the classic angina symptoms. For example, women often experience symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, abdominal pain or extreme fatigue, with or without chest pain," the Mayo Clinic said. "Or a woman may feel discomfort in her neck, jaw or back or stabbing pain instead of the more typical chest pressure. These differences may lead to delays in seeking treatment."
According to Heart Sisters
, even if women do feel angina, it can be very different from what men feel.
"For example, a woman may have chest pain that feels like a stabbing, pulsating, burning, heavy or sharp form of chest discomfort rather than the more typical vise-like pressure and tightness of men," the website explained.
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Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, AHA said, and 80 percent of heart disease is preventable. Understanding the way angina can present differently in women may help women seek help.
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