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Rollins researcher co-authors AHA's first-ever statement on female heart attacks

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A woman’s heart attack may have different underlying causes, symptoms, and outcomes compared with those of men, and differences in risk factors and outcomes are further pronounced in black and Hispanic women, according to a scientific statement published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

Viola Vaccarino, Wilton Looney Chair of Cardiovascular Research and chair of the epidemiology department, and Nanette Wenger, professor of medicine, were among a small group of co-authors on the statement—the first ever from the American Heart Association on heart attacks in women.

Compared with men, women may have less severe arterial blockages leading to heart attacks, may face greater complications from attempts to restore blood flow, and are less frequently prescribed cardiac rehabilitation. While the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort for both sexes, women are more likely to have atypical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.

Compared with white women, black women have a higher incidence of heart attacks in all age categories, and young black women have higher in-hospital death rates. Black and Hispanic women tend to have more heart-related risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, at the time of their heart attack compared with non-Hispanic white women. Compared with white women, black women are also less likely to be referred for important treatments, such as cardiac catheterization.

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Emory cardiology researchers Nanette Wenger, MD, and Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, were among a small group of co-authors on the statement, the first ever from the American Heart Association on heart attacks in women.

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