Science Says Women Are Dangerously Slow at Recognizing Heart Attack Symptoms

Ladies, it's time to take better care of yourself!

According to the ACLS, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., killing one out of every four women each year. And one of the reasons that it's so deadly is because women tend to ignore or downplay their heart attack symptoms until it is too late—as well as the fact that heart attack symptoms often differ for men and women.

Now, two new studies recently presented as a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) congress have found that women tend to call an ambulance for husbands, fathers, and brothers with heart attack symptoms, but not for themselves.

Researchers analyzed the records of over 7,000 patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)—a serious type of heart attack where a major artery supplying blood to the heart is blocked, and which requires opening the artery within 90 minutes of diagnosis in the ambulance.

Overall, 45 percent of patients were treated within the recommended time frame, but fewer of these patients were women. While 40 percent of men had their ECG results [the process of recording the electrical activity of the heart] transferred from the ambulance to a heart attack center, the same was true for only 34 percent of women aged 54 years and younger and under 45 percent for women 75 and above.

"One of the reasons women are less likely than men to be treated within the recommended time period is because they take longer to call an ambulance when they have symptoms—this is especially true for younger women. In addition, ECG results for younger women are less often sent to the heart attack center, which is recommended to speed up treatment," said Professor Mariusz Gąsior, the principal investigator in the Polish Registry of Acute Coronary Syndromes (PL-ACS). "Very often women run the house, send children to school, and prepare for family celebrations. We hear over and over again that these responsibilities delay women from calling an ambulance if they experience symptoms of a heart attack."

The results have led the researchers to campaign for women to take care of not just others but also themselves ahead of International Women's Day on March 8th, whose theme this year is #BalanceforBetter. It's especially crucial given that recent studies have shown that heart attacks are alarmingly on the rise for younger women.

"More efforts are needed to improve the logistics of pre-hospital heart attack care in young women," Dr Marek Gierlotka, registry coordinator, said. "Greater awareness should be promoted among medical staff and the general public that women, even young women, also have heart attacks. Women are more likely to have atypical signs and symptoms, which may contribute to a delay in calling for medical assistance."

And for more on the signs women in particular should watch out for, check out this Nurse's Viral Tweet On How Heart Attack Symptoms Are Different for Women.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more