Heart disease symptoms can differ by gender


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KATV) -- Heart disease is the number one killer here in Arkansas, according to University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS).

The Central Arkansas American Heart Association held a "Go Red" event Thursday in an effort to shine light on the disease.

But symptoms of a heart attack can oftentimes affect men and women differently, according to Dr. Jean McSweeney, with UAMS.

"I feel awesome," heart attack survivor Alamae Harris said, reflecting on her diagnosis of heart disease 22 years ago.

Like many, having a heart attack was something she never thought would happen to her.

"Get checked for heart disease. Don't think that it's heart burn or [that] you ate too much; get it checked," Harris advised.

"80 percent of heart disease is preventable if we would modify some of our risk factors," McSweeney stated.

A contributing factor to heart disease, according to McSweeney, could be as simple as not being active enough.

"[We] sit pretty much all day long like a lot of us in our jobs," she pointed out.

But the warning signs of a heart attack can differ depending on gender, according to McSweeney.

Based off of a study McSweeney conducted, "up to 40 percent of women never experienced any chest pains at all when they were having a heart attack."

On the other hand, McSweeney pointed out, men have severe chest pain when they're having a heart attack.

"Women tend to complain of really being overly fatigued, and as the fatigue gets worse, the closer they get to the heart attack," she said.

Lastly, McSweeney notes that women can experience shortness of breath, which is one of the first signs of a heart attack.

While it's impossible to determine which gender is more likely to have a heart attack, McSweeney says it depends on risk factors and family history of heart disease.

Women can have a heart attack in their fifties, while men are known to have one in as early as their forties.

Risk factors for heart disease include smoking, being overweight, and having uncontrolled high blood pressure.

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