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Men & Women Differing Heart Symptoms: April 28, 2013

Delays can be heart breaking when it comes to a cardiac arrest. Waiting even 15 minutes has been shown to increase damage to the heart muscle. Seeking timely treatment sometimes depends on your sex.

“I still see a lot of delay amongst women,” says Dr. Elizabeth Cosmi-Cintron, cardiologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Heart-attack sufferers do best when they get to the hospital within one hour after symptoms start. But studies show women are more likely than men to hold off. It may be in part because they often feel things differently.

“Women can have atypical symptoms which can be light headedness, short of breath when they try to exert themselves, they may feel stomach discomfort, they may feel just generally not well,” says Dr. Cosmi-Cintron.

Of course, both women and men may experience the classic chest pains. But even a heavy heart isn’t always enough to get them to a doctor or hospital.

“I think with women they tend to believe they’re likely to have other medical problems. Breast cancer for example, but they also forget they’re at risk for heart disease. Which is the number one kill in both men and women,” says Dr. Cosmi-Cintron.

Earlier in life men are more at risk for cardiovascular disease. But by age 60 the women start catching up. Problem is they lag behind in catching any potential problems.

“I’ve seen women put their health on the side burner because their dealing with their own family, raising children, working and so sometimes they don’t get to their physician even as a baseline,” says Dr. Cosmi-Cintron.

It’s important for women to know their personal risk, be aware of heart attack symptoms and be prepared to call 911 in an emergency.