Dr. Suzanne Sorof describes how chest pain and coronary artery disease manifest in women.
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Angina and coronary disease can present much differently than it does in men. You can have typical signs which are the crushing chest pain radiating into the jaw causing some shortness of breath down your left arm, not really numbness in your arm but mostly heaviness or arm pain. But in women we get different symptoms and the thinking is that estrogen will change the dynamics of our hormones and how we present. A lot of women present with shortness of breath. They can be fatigued or have a lot of weakness. There’s an overwhelming sense of panic or impending doom that they just can’t get comfortable. They feel like the activities that they are normally used to doing are just so strenuous for them they can’t complete them. They feel nervous and anxious because they can’t do the things that they are doing and a lot of times they just overall feel fatigued like a flu-like symptoms. Sometimes when people present they can say things like, “I feel like I am having the flu,” and it can throw a doctor off that they start looking for things like fever and elevated white blood counts but those can be the presenting signs of angina or blockages that are found in the coronary vessels.
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