Structurally, men and women's hearts are built similarly. But when the heart is in trouble, the outside symptoms may vastly differ by gender.
Not only can women display different heart attack symptoms than men, but pinpointing heart trouble in women could also be more difficult for doctors.
What is Troponin?
If doctors suspect a heart attack, they often conduct a test to measure troponin proteins in the blood. Troponin-I proteins are released from the heart and can be found at elevated levels in the blood when the heart muscle has been damaged. The more damage to the heart, the greater the amount of troponin in the blood.
Women do not likely have as much troponin protein as men, which may mask a serious heart condition and lead to delayed treatment. Researchers discovered that peak troponin levels were four times lower in female hospital patients than in male hospital patients, according to a study published by the journal Pathology. Since troponin levels are used by health providers to help guide treatment decisions, lower levels may contribute to less aggressive treatment in women. This means women could be discharged or face delayed heart attack treatment.
New Test May Enhance Detection
A test developed by Abbott may help remedy the troponin dilemma. Abbott’s High Sensitivity Troponin-I (hsTnI) blood test is now cleared in the U.S. to help diagnose heart attacks in men and women.
This high sensitivity blood test measures very low levels of troponin, allowing doctors to evaluate heart attack in patients within two to four hours of admission.
A study in The Lancet shows that the hsTnI blood test successfully aided doctors in identifying people at risk for heart attack and helped physicians make treatment decisions about which people should stay in the hospital.
The test may greatly benefit women since they may have lower troponin levels even when experiencing a heart attack. Using Abbott's blood test, doctors could have the information needed for quicker treatment decisions to potentially save more women's lives and get them back to better health. In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal found Abbott's test uncovered twice as many heart attacks in women than standard troponin tests when used with cut-off levels designed for women.
Differing Danger Signs: What You Should Know
When watching a heart attack play out on the big screen, it's common to see an actor clutching their chest. It's true that chest pain is a heart attack symptom for both sexes, but men more than woman experience the effect. Women are more likely to experience subtle heart attack symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
It's important for women to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack more generally found in females, which may include:
- Spontaneous shortness of breath or sweating without exertion.
- Pain in the neck, back or jaw that may spread to the back or either arm.
- Intense fatigue that occurs after everyday activities, like doing laundry or walking the dog.
- A cold, clammy feeling that materializes without cause.
For more information on the high sensitivity blood test from Abbott, click here.