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July 2021

When It Comes to Heart Attacks, Gender Is an Issue

All may be fair in love and war, but the same can’t be said for matters of the heart. A heart attack—when blood doesn’t reach part of the heart muscle—is a medical emergency, but its symptoms vary from person to person.

Gender bias

Men often experience the classic symptom of a heart attack: crushing chest pain. But some women may not. Their symptoms, such as nausea, shortness of breath, and back or jaw pain, tend to be subtler and easier to ignore or misdiagnose—until it’s too late, according to the American Heart Association. Women also tend to fare worse after a heart attack, though researchers aren’t sure why.

Take heart

Your gender isn’t your destiny. Experts say that 80% of cardiovascular diseases—which include heart attacks—are preventable. Everyone should take good care of their heart by:

  • Not smoking

  • Managing their weight

  • Exercising regularly

  • Eating a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium

  • Controlling their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar

Know your risk

How healthy is your heart? What’s your personal risk of having a heart attack? At your next doctor’s appointment, ask your healthcare provider to review any risk factors you might have and how to control them. If you’re age 40 or older, you can also complete this “Heart Risk Calculator.”



Eggs offer protein, vitamins, and minerals. But they also contain saturated fat and cholesterol, especially the yolks. As a result, researchers report an association between eating eggs and having a higher risk for cardiovascular disease—particularly for women. Yet, generally healthy people may not need to give them up entirely. Instead, eat eggs in moderate amounts. Still hungry? Add fresh fruit and yogurt to your breakfast.




Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Gonella, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2021
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