Chest pain is a common symptom in men and women, but each gender can experience it differently. Men tend to feel sharp chest pain during physical exertion, while in women, chest pain may occur with exertion or with emotional stress alone. Women also may experience unexplained fatigue or shortness of breath.
On average, women develop coronary artery disease 10 years later than men. This may be due to the protective role estrogen is thought to play in preventing heart disease. With menopause, estrogen levels drop, which may place women at greater risk for the disease.
Although men and women can have high LDL cholesterol, women naturally have higher levels of the "good" HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol than men, which helps remove the "bad" LDL cholesterol from arteries. So, low HDL levels in women are a serious risk factor for heart disease, along with these risk factors:
•High blood pressure
•High LDL cholesterol
•Low HDL cholesterol
•Lack of exercise
A cardiac stress test is often used to diagnose coronary artery disease by monitoring the heart's electrical activity and pumping performance. However, even when their hearts are healthy, women are more likely than men to show irregularities during cardiac stress tests. This can create a false positive for heart disease, so doctors may also use an imaging test to confirm the results of stress tests in women.
If you are diagnosed with the disease, many effective medications and interventions are equally successful in men and women.