Women's Heart Attacks Pose Greater Risks Due to Lack of Chest Pain

Women may be less likely to feel chest pain during a heart attack, but are at a greater risk than men of dying from one.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published the new findings and is examining the relationship between, gender, age and chest pain when it comes fatal heart attacks, according to Business Week.

The AMA study examined over 1 million records of Americans from 1994 to 2006 and found that 42 percent of women reported no chest pain when receiving treatment at a hospital for a heart attack. Meanwhile only 30.7 percent of men reported no chest pain. About 15 percent of women died, compared to 10 percent of men, according to the study.

John Canto, from the Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida, led the team of researchers in the study. He suggests that the absence of chest pain, which is the hallmark symptom of a heart attack, may be associated with higher risk of death for women.

"Patients without chest pain and discomfort tend to present later, are treated less aggressively and have almost twice the short-term mortality compared with those presenting with more typical symptoms," Canto said.

The increased risk of death for women who don't have chest pains decreased with age and the oldest women are less likely to die than men at the same age that also didn't feel chest pains, according to the N.Y. Times. Women under 55 who had heart attacks but no chest pains were two to three times more likely to die in the hospital compared with men of the same age. But the difference declined and almost disappeared with increasing age, according to Dr. Canto.

Dr. Canto said that people who do not feel tightness or pain in the chest may not realize what is happening and doctors don't consider the possibility of a heart attack, according to the N.Y. Times.

"As a result, the odds of immediately undergoing bypass surgery, heart catheterizations and other lifesaving procedures are decreased," Canto said.

While chest pains and discomfort are the most common symptom for people hospitalized for heart attacks, the research team in this study said that it doesn't always predict risk of death. They call the notion, "provocative" and say it needs additional studies to be confirmed.

Other studies show that woman particularly experience pain in the upper back and neck, indigestion, nausea, extreme fatigue and shortness of breath when having a heart attack.