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Although heart disease may often be thought of as a problem for men, heart disease is the most common cause of death for both women and men in the United States. One challenge is that some heart disease symptoms in women may be different from those in men. A new study being conducted locally may provide more answers.

Cardiologist Dr. Diana Rinkevich and the CMH/OHSU Cardiology Clinic are working to better understand how heart disease and gender relate.

There is evidence to suggest that those warning signs of a heart problem show up differently in women than in men and Dr. Rinkevich has been studying this difference for some years because it is not well understood. For example; 

The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it is not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pain. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

These symptoms can be more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe chest pain as pressure or a tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.

Women's symptoms may occur more often when women are resting, or even when they're asleep. Mental stress also may trigger heart attack symptoms in women.

The Astoria-based, state-of-the-art cardiology clinic at the CMH main campus is now recruiting both men and women to participate in a new study set for Friday, February 24th that will only require and hour or two for participants. Volunteers will be asked to fill out a questionnaire, take a few medical tests, such as blood pressure, blood tests, and body measurements. For more information call 503-338-4087 to find out more.

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