Painless Heart Attacks Deadly for Women

Chest pain while hospitalized are at a higher risk of dying

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(RxWiki News) Women, especially those that are younger, are more likely to suffer a heart attack without painful chest symptoms. A new study suggests they also are less likely to survive.

The finding is particularly concerning since many female patients do not experience chest pain with a heart attack, and the lack of pain could cause delays in seeking treatment, a later diagnosis and less aggressive treatment.

"Go to the hospital immediately if you experience chest pain."

Dr. John G. Canto, a study author from the Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Medical Center, found that there were differences between men and women of all ages in regards to experiencing chest pain, and mortality rates, but that they diminished as the patients aged.

Younger women under the age of 45 were most likely not to experience chest pain with a heart attack. That group also was more likely to die as a result of a heart attack. By the age of 65, the gender gap had closed substantially.

During the observational study, researchers reviewed the records of more than one million heart attack patients through the National Registry of Myocardial Infarction between 1994 and 2006. Nearly half were women, and 35.4 percent of the patients reported chest pain.

Investigators found that 40 percent more women reported no chest pain or discomfort following a heart attack. They also were 42 percent more likely to die in the hospital.

The in-hospital mortality rate was 10.3 percent for men and 14.6 percent for women. Younger women without chest pain were also more likely to die as compared to young men who did not experience chest pain, though the gender gap narrowed with advancing age.

The finding could have implications for treating heart attack patients, especially those who do not report chest pain or discomfort.

The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Last Updated:
February 22, 2012