Angina in Women Can Be Different Than Men

angina

Angina (chest pain) is a warning sign of heart disease, and recognizing it and getting treated early may prevent a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease occurs when fatty build-up in your coronary arteries, called plaque, prevents adequate blood flow that’s needed to provide oxygen to your heart muscle.

As coronary artery disease progresses, you may have tightness, pressure or discomfort in your chest during physical activity or when stressed. It may go away shortly after you stop the activity or get rid of the stress. If the blockages worsen, it may take longer for the pain to go away, or you might experience pain at rest.

Angina symptoms in women can also include nausea, vomiting, pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen or back and feeling out of breath. Once the extra demand for blood and oxygen stops, so do the symptoms. These symptoms are not always recognized as a symptom of a heart condition in women. As a result, treatment for women can be delayed.

View a detailed illustration of angina.

So why would angina symptoms be different in women and men?

Heart disease in men is more often due to blockages in their coronary arteries, referred to as obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD). Women more frequently develop heart disease within the very small arteries that branch out from the coronary arteries. This is referred to as microvascular disease (MVD) and occurs particularly in younger women. Up to 50% of women with anginal symptoms who undergo cardiac catheterization don’t have the obstructive type of CAD. 

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S., affecting over 40% of women. Over 58% of African-American women, 43% of Hispanic women and 43% of Asian women age 20 or older have cardiovascular disease.

Track your angina symptoms with our Angina Log.

Recognize the Signs, Seek Medical Treatment

Recognizing the signs and seeking treatment is the first step. Understanding your risk factors, such as a family history, is also important to staying in tune with changes in your health. 

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