Painless Threat

Many women find that a heart attack doesn’t hurt as much as they’d expect. But that may not be a good thing.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women, killing far more each year than breast cancer. Here’s more news that may come as a surprise to some people: many women don’t have chest pain during a heart attack.

In a new study, researchers included more than 1 million people who went to the hospital with a heart attack. Forty-two percent of the women weren’t having chest pain when they came to the hospital, compared to about 31% of the men. This difference was especially common in younger women, and younger women without chest pain were more likely to die in the hospital than younger men.

According to the researchers, people who don’t feel chest pain when they’re having a heart attack tend to wait longer before seeking help and healthcare providers tend to treat them less aggressively.

These other warning signs of a possible heart attack should prompt women to seek medical help immediately:

• Pressure in the chest
• Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, jaw, stomach or neck
• Shortness of breath
• Lightheadedness or nausea
• Sweating

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