As a man with a history of heart concerns, I know what to be aware of in me, and know what symptoms would send me off to the hospital (or to the phone — don’t exert yourself if experiencing heart attack symptoms!) But there are women I care about too, so it’s useful to know that women often experience different symptoms.

The study also found that women often fail to realize that they are having a heart attack – and so do doctors. This is because heart attack symptoms in women can be different than they are in men. The symptoms we most commonly associate with a heart attack, like pain in the left arm and tightness in the chest, don’t always occur in women. The study found that 42% of women who have heart attacks never experience the “classic heart attack symptom” of tightness or pain in the chest. Instead, they may develop pain in the back or jaw, light-headedness, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath.

Heart attacks kill people of both sexes, but they affect female bodies differently than they affect male ones. The problem with having “male” as the default in medical research, and even in public health awareness campaigns, is that it fails to account for these differences, often with serious or even fatal consequences. The common heart attack symptoms for female bodies are ones we often associate with panic attacks or anxiety, especially when they appear in women.

Take care of yourselves!

(Also on FtB)