Men, Women & Heart Disease - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Men, Women & Heart Disease

The classic “Hollywood heart attack,” where a man gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the ground isn’t always a real life scenario. In fact, the signs can be much less subtle, particularly for women.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, often because the symptoms are masked and many choose not to seek treatment soon enough.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, often because the symptoms are masked and many choose not to seek treatment soon enough.

Gina Lindsey, RN MSN CEN, Clinical Development Coordinator for Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, explains the differences and similarities of heart disease, in both men and women:

  • Women’s hearts are different than men’s. Women have smaller hearts and arteries than men. Heart disease in men is more often due to blockages in their coronary arteries, called obstructive coronary artery disease. Women more frequently develop heart disease within the very small arteries that branch out from the coronary arteries.
  • Women’s symptoms can be misdiagnosed. Women are about as likely to have a heart attack as men, but women are more likely to die after their first heart attack since early symptoms are often misdiagnosed as indigestion, gall bladder disease or anxiety. 

The likelihood of misdiagnosing a heart attack in women is also increased by the fact that women tend to have heart attacks later in life, when they often have other diseases (such as arthritis or diabetes) that can mask heart attack symptoms. 

Heart Attack Symptoms for Men & Women

Symptoms of a heart attack in both men and women: 

  • Squeezing chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Tightness in chest
  • Pain spreading to shoulders, neck, arm or jaw
  • Feeling of heartburn or indigestion, with or without nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness or brief loss of consciousness

Symptoms More Likely in Women 

  • Indigestion or gas-like pain 
  • Dizziness or nausea 
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue 
  • Discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades  
  • Recurring chest discomfort 
  • Sense of impending doom

For More Information

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