Heart to Heart Differences in Men and Women

When researchers finally bother to get to the heart of the matter, they find some serious differences in the tickers of men and women.

Among the findings, announced today by the Canadian GENESIS project, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada:

  • Men’s ailing hearts respond differently to certain  medications than women’s do.
  • Women tend not to experience the crushing chest pain of a heart attack that men report, but rather feel more fatigue and nausea.
  • Teenage boys develop high blood pressure more than girls. Same is true for adults, though women tend to catch up after menopause.
  • Angiograms are less effective at detecting heart problems in women than in men.

The bottom line: More research is needed on the gender differences related to heart disease, and women need to be more aware of the potential signs of heart attack, said study leader Louise Pilote of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“It could be that, in the future, you choose a drug based on the sex of the patient,” she says. “And maybe an angiogram isn't such a good test for diagnosing coronary disease in women.”

A separate study in 2005 published in the American Journal of Medicine found that women with heart disease discount the problem's severity compared to men with the exact same symptoms.