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Why are angina symptoms different in women and men?

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Quick Answer

Angina symptoms are different in women than in men because women's heart disease originates differently from men's, explains the American Heart Association. Women experience blockage more frequently in the small arteries that branch out from the coronary arteries, rather than in the main coronary arteries as in men.

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Obstructive coronary heart disease is more commonly found in men, while women most commonly have microvascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. No obstructive CAD is found in up to 50 percent of women with angina when they have cardiac catheterization.

Angina, a symptom of coronary heart disease, is chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle cannot get enough blood flow and oxygen due to blockage, according to the National Institutes of Health. To men, angina commonly feels like pressure or squeezing, which may extend into the arms. To women, the chest pain most typically feels like a stabbing or burning pain that radiates into the jaw, neck, throat, back or abdomen. Women are more likely to experience angina due to mental stress than men and experience angina when they are resting or sleeping. For men, typically the chest pain eases with rest.

Heart disease, as of 2015, is the number-one killer of women in the United States, according to the American Hearth Association. It occurs in one out of every three women and in up to half of African-American women.

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