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Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Hearts

Small Variations Can Have Significant Consequences

Women’s hearts differ from men’s in ways that seem subtle but can have important health effects. The differences become evident with heart disease and can include variations in how a woman’s coronary arteries become constricted and which vessels are affected.

The most critical differences, though, may lie in how men and women experience heart attack symptoms. Understanding these distinctions can mean the difference between life and death.

Heart Disease in Men and Women

One of the most common types of heart disease is ischemic heart disease. It happens when coronary arteries become narrowed by a substance called plaque. Plaque can lead to blood clots, which can cause a heart attack.

In some women, especially younger ones, plaque affects coronary arteries differently than in men and may be difficult to diagnose. And while heart attacks in men often happen from an obstruction in one of the major cardiac arteries, in many women they occur in the smaller vessels of the heart. In some cases, these vessels become constricted without evidence of blockage.

Studies also show that while type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure raise heart attack risks for both sexes, they are more potent risks for women.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women and Men

Men and women also differ in the symptoms they have with a heart attack. Since their symptoms may not seem related to heart problems, women tend to wait longer to get help. Delayed treatment can mean poor outcomes or even death.

Both men and women can have chest pain, pressure or discomfort from a heart attack. However, women are more likely to have the following heart attack symptoms, often without chest pain or discomfort:

  • A sense of dread
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Extreme jaw or back pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sudden shortness of breath

Men are more likely to have:

  • Cold sweats
  • Crushing chest pain
  • Pain in the left arm

Heart attack symptoms are sometimes subtle and may come and go. However, it’s essential to call 911 and get to a hospital as quickly as possible if you have symptoms of a heart attack. Your life could depend on it.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.