Consumer Reports: Heart attacks deadlier in women, experts say

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The number one killer of men and women in the U.S. continues to be heart disease. But a heart attack tends to strike women differently. (WLS)

The number one killer of men and women in the U.S. continues to be heart disease. But the most obvious expression of the disease - a heart attack - tends to strike women differently.

Consumer Reports helps us get to the heart of the matter, about what you need to know when it comes to gender and heart health.

As many people will tell you, men and women are very different creatures.
Consumer Reports Health Expert Lisa Gill said that's particularly true when it comes to heart health.

"There are big differences between men and women. One really good example is women tend to have heart attacks later in life, usually around age 72. Whereas for men, it's around age 65," Gill said.

Heart attacks are also deadlier in women. The American Heart Association said once they hit 45, 26 percent of women die in the year after their first heart attack, compared with 19 percent of men.

"When a woman is having a heart attack, the symptoms are different and they're actually much less obvious, which makes it more difficult to detect she's actually having a heart attack," Gill said.

So it's really important for women to be aware of key, subtle signs, such as jaw or back pain, nausea and shortness of breath.

Men typically have more classic symptoms, such as chest pain or tightness and pain radiating to the arms.

As a result, women may be less likely to seek medical help than men, and may be more likely to be misdiagnosed in the emergency room.

When a heart attack is suspected, care also differs.

"An angiogram is a pretty standard, and it checks for blockages in the coronary arteries. But for women, the plaque tends to spread more evenly," Gill said.

For women, an intravascular ultrasound may be a good, additional test.

Anyone who has had a heart attack should be prescribed medication, like low-dose aspirin, and be referred to an exercise and a cardiac rehabilitation program. But research shows women are less likely than men to get a referral to those programs - or to even go, when referred.

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Related Topics:
healthconsumer reportsheart attackheart diseasewomen and heart diseasewomen's healthhealth

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