Why do women have different heart attack symptoms than men?


Like instead of chest pains, they feel “sick” or it feels like a flu without chest pains

In: Biology

I don’t think that entirely true . They do feel chest pains , but are more likely to feel other symptoms as well


This is hard to make it an ELi5 since we don’t know the exact science. Women do not have different heart attack symptoms — just different descriptions of the symptoms. Some people think women have a higher pain threshold but it could be that they’re dismissing the chance of having a heart attack since men are more likely to get one.

Women often describe heart attack as an ache or muscle tightness in the chest region, in the arm, or their left side. Men will say, “It hurts, it’s sharp, it pinches, etc.” But the sensation is the same, just different perceptions. It used to be thought that “because women don’t strenuously load their body with physical work, that they aren’t as familiar with differentiating muscle ache to chest pain” but that doesn’t really explain how men that don’t have physically demanding jobs or routines still say that it’s a sharp pain.

There is no good ELI5 here I think. First of all we recognized this only recently because there is a male centric bias in medicine. I’m of the opinion it is mostly due to historical reasons, and not nefarious.

But if I had to wave my hands I would say it is because of physiological difference and occupying different space in the society in the west. It likely has to do with development, heart strain from exercise and difference in perceptions of pain, but this is hardly a good explanation.

Women react to medications differently as well. Hence the need for them to be represented in medical trials.

For anyone reading this, I’d like to point out another symptom women often have is nausea. My friend died of a heart attack in her 40s and the only thing she’d been complaining of was thinking she had food poisoning, which was likely really her main symptom. She had a family history of heart problems so was likely more aware of the typical chest pain symptoms. Perhaps it’s because some women can ignore or tolerate pain until it makes them feel nauseous.

Sorry everyone, I didn’t realize how difficult of a question this was. As someone stated, it’s not that women don’t feel chest pains, but it’s more likely for women to feel generally “sick” and not know until much later that it was a heart attack. I was reading about the different symptoms and saw that the symptoms was different and didn’t know why. I was secretly hoping a cardiologist would pop in and explain. Thank you everyone for your help!