A study presented at EAPC Essentials 4 You—a virtual scientific platform of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC)—found that the top three myocardial infarction symptoms in both women and men are chest pain, sweating, and shortness of breath. These findings were also published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Authors Annemarijn de Boer (University Medical Centre Utrecht, the Netherlands) and colleagues compiled the highest quality studies (27 in total) from the past two decades detailing symptoms in patients with confirmed acute coronary syndrome. Reviewing data from these studies, they found that the top three symptoms of myocardial infarction were the same for both men and women. Additionally, the authors found that the majority of men and women experiencing an acute coronary syndrome had chest pain (79% of men and 74% of women).
However, de Boer et al also found that significant differences in symptom presentation between women and men. Compared with men, women were more than twice as likely to have pain between the shoulder blades, 64% more likely to have nausea or vomiting, and 34% more likely to experience shortness of breath. Although chest pain and sweating were the most frequent symptoms in both women and men, they occurred less often in women, who had a 30% lower odds of chest pain and 26% lower odds of sweating compared to men.
de Boer comments: “Heart attack symptoms are often labelled as ‘typical’ in men and ‘atypical’ in women. But our study shows that while symptoms can differ between the sexes, there are also many similarities.”
The study did not investigate the reasons why there are some variations in symptom presentation between women and men, but de Boer says: “Previous research has shown sex differences in how heart attacks occur in the body, but it is uncertain how or whether this relates to symptom presentation. The cause of symptom differences between the sexes deserves further study.”