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Why Women Aren’t Seeking Help When They Have a Heart Attack

Heart disease is already one of the most common causes of death for women in the U.S., and according to new research, the causes and symptoms of heart attacks in women are different from what men experience — so different, in fact, that it could be the reason why heart disease is so fatal.

As reported by FOX News and the Washington Post, a new scientific statement on the issue was released in the American Heart Association’s academic journal, Circulation. As discovered by a team of researchers, many women don’t realize that they’re experiencing a heart attack and therefore don’t know to seek medical help.

While men tend to experience a “crushing chest pain” during a heart attack, TIME noted that women typically experience symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath, jaw pain, and back pain. These symptoms can be so vague — and even mild — that women aren’t aware of what’s happening. For example, nearly seven out of 10 American adults experience lower back pain on a regular basis; it’s easy to assume that it’s just another pulled muscle.

The data found that Hispanic and black women are even less likely than white women to recognize the signs of a heart attack. Additionally, young women with Type 2 diabetes face a risk of heart attack that is four to fives times greater than that of men with Type 2 diabetes.

Not only are the physical signs of a heart attack less easily detected, but researchers also theorize that women experience significantly more psychological stress in their daily lives than men do. This, in turn, increases the risk of developing heart disease. And because women typically only make up 20% of the subjects in the average study on heart disease, researchers have previously paid little attention to the symptoms that women experience.

There’s still a lot of work left if we want to lower the fatality rates of heart attacks in women, but this seems to be a solid first step.

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