Medical Monday: Why are women different when it comes to heart attacks?

Posted at 7:12 PM, Feb 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-20 20:12:38-05
Dr. Weslow is an interventional cardiologist with Aurora BayCare. He joined us to talk about the difference for women and heart attacks. 
A heart attack happens when an artery in your heart becomes clogged and oxygen cannot get to the muscle. This causes damage to your heart because a part of the heart muscle dies.
The way a blockage is formed and the way damage is done to a heart during a heart attack is the same for men and women, however, the way we feel this blockage and damage being done is very different for men and women.
The classic symptom of heart attack is chest pain that being said, 50-70 percent of women don’t experience chest discomfort with their heart attacks. Some of the symptoms women feel during are: fatigue, light headedness, shortness of breath, anxiety, nausea and sometimes “just not feeling right.”
The medical community has attempted to answer this question, but we don’t have an adequate answer. The bottom line likely is that men and women are very different beings; we know that women process and feel experiences differently than men, and heart attacks are no different.
We have multiple studies showing that more women than men die from their heart attack. And among those that live, more develop heart failure after their heart attacks then men do.
The best thing women can do to avoid having a bad outcome from a heart attack is to recognize the signs of heart attack earlier. One study showed an astonishing statistic: 95 percent of women reported feeling “different” in some way during the month preceding their heart attack. That means if they would have recognized this and sought medical attention earlier, they may have had a better outcome.
For information, call Aurora BayCare Cardiology at 800-236-6309.