NashvilleHealth | When it comes to heart attacks, women are different from men
heart rate monitor

When it comes to heart attacks, women are different from men

By Marlene Cimons

On that November Sunday in 2015, Stephanie Thomas Nichols was 40 miles into her drive home to Townsend, Del., from her vacation cabin in Western Maryland when she felt an odd sensation in her upper body.

“No pain, just pressure, heaviness,’’ recalls Nichols, who owns a software company. She couldn’t catch her breath. Within minutes, her left arm went numb.

She remembers thinking, “Something’s not right here.” She pulled off I-68 at the next exit, near Cumberland. She asked a man working in his yard where she could find a hospital, and he led her straight to an emergency room.

Nichols, then 47, was having a heart attack.

She has no family history of heart disease, she doesn’t smoke, and her cholesterol and blood pressure are normal. She doesn’t have diabetes, and she experiences little stress. Tests showed clear arteries with no blockages, the most common cause of heart attacks. “I left them shaking their heads,” she says.

In all likelihood, her heart attack was caused by one of several conditions that tend to afflict women more often than men. Those conditions produce less dramatic symptoms, such as the chest pressure that Nichols felt, rather than stunning pain, so they may be overlooked by doctors who mistake them for lesser ailments. Researchers still are trying to better understand these disorders, especially why women are so prone to them.

Read the rest of the article on The Washington Post.

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