Yale study shows younger women with heart attacks present with not so common symptoms

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Heart attack symptoms in women under the age of 55. There’s strong evidence those women experience less obvious signs. That’s according to the findings of a Yale study.

Researchers looked at a national sample of young women who’ve had heart attacks.

It’s estimated — 435 thousand women in the U.S. have heart attacks yearly.

But those under the age of 55 experience symptoms — not so common.

Cardiologist Dr. Erica Spatz at Women’s Health Research at Yale explains, “What we found is that — there is enormous variation in the ways that women are presenting with heart attacks.”

She’s the clinical investigator of the study which focused on that younger group of women.

Less obvious signs she says — include shortness of breath, pain in the shoulder or jaw, extreme fatigue.

And what patient Susan McMahon describes as similar to a heartburn.

“I went on for a couple of days,” says Susan, “just thinking oh it was the garlic from the night before.”

Stunned– when doctors told her she had a heart attack.

Susan says, “You just think and I even thought to myself, well if I had a heart attack, I wouldn’t be walking around, so you dismiss it and go on with your busy day.”

The study concluding — about one in eight young women has an atypical heart attack.

Dr. Spatz is now digging deeper into why, “What else is happening in the heart artery that may explain the chest pain? The damage to the heart muscle? Are the vessels spasming? These different kinds of heart attacks are more common in young women yet often times obscured by the general term heart attack — which means that they end up getting treated very similarly and it’s not clear we’re doing our best for that kind of heart attack.”

More than three months after doctors inserted two stents in her heart, Susan is adjusting to her new normal.

She says, “It takes a while to get your energy back. I’ll have energy. Everybody thinks I’m doing fine and then I go home and go to sleep.”

The study was in large part funded by a grant from Women’s Health Research at Yale.

Dr. Spatz is already working on defining the different characteristics of these type of heart attacks.

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