Signs of a heart attack may depend on gender

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Dr. Monica McDonald with Prevea Health knows how to maneuver around the human heart.

Dr. Monica McDonald with Prevea Health out of HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital said when a heart attack strikes, time is critical - but, knowing what signs to look for may depend on your gender.

The cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon based out of HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital said maneuvering through recognizing a heart attack isn't easy.

"You know, men present with the typical symptoms. That have sudden onset of chest pain, jaw pain, they're sweating," McDonald said to WEAU 13 News on Wednesday. “Women are quite different and their symptoms are often very vague. They might just feel tired. They feel like they're going to be sick to their stomach ... or they may have anxiety. So it's much more difficult to diagnose a woman."

McDonald said there really isn't much difference in the physical makeup of a woman's heart as opposed to a man's heart – with one exception. She said coronary arteries around a woman's heart are slightly smaller, compared to a man's heart.

"They don't often know why women present different, for sure ... but because they don't present right away, they may have more damage to the heart by the time they present," McDonald said.

In the past, according to McDonald, the differences weren't recognized by medical professionals. Now, she hopes knowing the differences can help in saving more lives.

"Hopefully now that people are more aware of it and physicians are more aware of it, we can have better outcomes with women – because they don't do as well as men, because as I said, they present later,” she said. “So, if we can recognize it earlier in them, then they will have better outcomes."