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Study: Women Can Be Missing Symptoms Of A Heart Attack

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Lalina Franklin getting a checkup from Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum (credit: CBS)

Lalina Franklin getting a checkup from Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – Chest pain is considered the hallmark symptom of a heart attack, but patients can also experience other kinds of pain, and in some cases, none at all. That’s especially true for women, and they can be missing the symptoms.

Researchers say younger women have a greater risk of dying from a heart attack. A new study in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that may be because their warning signs are often very different.

Lalina Franklin was having neck and jaw pain. She had no idea she was on the verge of a severe heart attack .

“You think of some really bad pain in your chest and collapsing. I wasn’t having any pain at all in my chest,” Franklin said.

New research shows 42 percent of women under 55 do not feel chest pain during a heart attack. And hospitals often don’t diagnose those women properly until it’s too late.

“When women arrive to the hospital having a heart attack with symptoms different than chest pain, their care might not happen as immediate,” cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum said.

Researchers say that’s why more than 14 percent of women are dying from heart attacks in the hospital compared to 10 percent of men.

Doctors say there are signs a woman can look out for besides chest pain.

“They might have other symptoms like jaw pain, back pain, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue and simply sweating. All of these things could be a heart attack,” Steinbaum said.

Steinbaum says for any woman noticing those symptoms, getting help immediately could be critical.

“The quicker you can get to treatment the quicker we can save heart muscle and prevent you from dying,” she said.

Franklin had a stent put in to clear an artery.

“I am definitely lucky to be alive today,” Franklin said.

Now at 60 she says she feels much better.

The study stresses that chest pain and discomfort are still the primary symptoms of heart attacks, whether a man or a woman. But researchers say don’t ignore other kinds of pain as well.

Doctors also say every woman starting at age 20 should have her cholesterol and blood pressure checked on a regular basis to assess her heart attack risk.

MORE: HealthONE Heart Health Section

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