Heart attack symptoms, treatment different for women

Most people associate heart attacks with men. But cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally for both sexes, and women are more likely to die of a heart attack than men, according to a University of Guelph professor.

Biomedical sciences professor Glen Pyle says that during a heart attack, women are more likely to present without pain or other symptoms. As a result, heart attacks are often missed in women, and women are less likely to receive recommended therapies, interventions and rehabilitation opportunities.

Heart Attack Illustration

Part of the problem is that treatment for heart attacks is based on data collected primarily from men, including looking for “classic” symptoms and basing treatments on thresholds set for men.
The failure to quickly recognize atypical symptoms can delay treatment and cause more heart damage, Pyle says.

Women who have a heart attack are less likely to receive interventions such as cardiac catheterization, bypass surgery and cardiac rehabilitation, he says.

Research agencies have guidelines to include more women in clinical trials and promote research into sex differences in cardiovascular disease. However, these recommendations must be enforced to have an impact on women’s health, Pyle says.