Woman's Heart Hurts in a Different Way

Until recently, there has been a prejudice in medicine, saying that female heart attacks are often somatic in nature, when the feelings are unconsciously converted into physical symptoms. It has not been found so far that heart diseases in men and women develop differently.

Though women talk about their feelings and pain more often than men, they visit doctors less often. Indeed, instead of confirming the diagnosis, the doctor may tell them about atypical symptoms of anxiety or the influence of stress factors on health. This happens not because the expert considers a woman to be simulating and seeking to draw attention to herself, but because she does not have the typical symptoms of heart disease. Instead of discomfort and chest pain, a woman may experience heaviness and pressure in the epigastrium (the area under the xiphoid process, which corresponds to the projection of the stomach on the anterior abdominal wall) or heartburn.

Dr. Aaron Feingold, director of cardiology department at the John F. Kennedy Hospital in New Jersey, says that women should pay attention to their symptoms. It happens quite often that after visiting a doctor and finding no heart problems, women simply go home where they suddenly die… of a heart attack. Feingold suggests that middle-aged women are less likely to go through angioplasty and stenting procedures because their complaints are not taken as seriously as male ones. It is widely considered that the risk of cardiovascular diseases increases in women only during the post-menopause period.