Medical research has found that there are differences between how heart attacks work in men and women. A recent study, published in Circulation, adds more evidence to this. It highlights how women can have heart attacks even if they do not have blocked arteries.
In men, blocked arteries are the main cause of heart attacks. This is also true for women, but, it turns out that women are more likely to have a heart attack without having blocked arteries. Evidence shows that about 8 percent of women who have chest pain, but no blocked arteries, have scarring on their hearts that indicates that they have had a heart attack.
This study included 340 women who had chest pain but did not have blocked arteries. Around 26 of these women had scarring that is in line with a heart attack. A year later, around half of these women were scanned again. Two of these women had new scarring. Both women had been hospitalized during the year for chest pain but were not diagnosed with a heart attack.
This is important to know because women with chest pain may not get tested for heart attack because of the lack of arteries being clogged. Without those clogged arteries, doctors may assume that the risk of it being a heart attack is low. This can lead to women being sent home when they need to receive appropriate medical care. For women who find themselves in the hospital because of severe chest pain, make sure they test for heart attack, as it can happen without having clogged arteries.
Wei Janet, et. al., "Myocardial Scar Is Prevalent and Associated With Subclinical Myocardial Dysfunction in Women With Suspected Ischemia But No Obstructive Coronary Artery Disease." Circulation. 19 Feb. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.031999