Women have different symptoms for heart attacks, study says

Gail Harris-Berry had a heart attack and it is because she didn't listen to doctors that she is alive today.

A new ground-breaking study about heart attacks found that womens' symptoms are different than mens' and that women are more likely to die.

The classic sign of a heart attack is crushing chest pain, but the study finds women--especially younger women--can have very different symptoms.

When Gail Harris-Berry was just 43-years-old, she felt a tingling in her arm. It went away in under two minutes, but the Hyattsville mother still went to the hospital.

"I didn't know what it was," Harris-Berry said. "I didn't have high cholesterol and I didn't have high blood pressure."

The tingling in her arm came back three more times. She went to the ER and was sent home every time.

"The fifth time I went back I was having severe pain in the chest and I said I am not leaving this hospital another time," she said. "By then they started treating me like I was having mental problems."

But she wasn't losing her mind. The tingling was a warning that something was wrong with her heart. A doctor finally agreed to take her to the Cath Lab where they slipped a camera through an artery in her groin up to her heart.

"I could hear them talking and all of a sudden there was this urgency," she said.

She'll never forget what the doctor later told her.

"Thank God you listened to your body and not to us because this would have killed you," the doctor told her. "I had a 90 percent blockage," she said.

A new study of more than a million heart attack patients found women are less likely to have chest pain. Of those women, 19 percent were under 45 years old.

Women are less likely to get immediate treatment and more likely to die.

Womens' symptoms can be atypical and include jaw pain, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, heavy sweating and nausea.

"If you have a big family history of heart disease, take that seriously," said Dr. Besser. "Did a group of these symptoms come on all at once, are they more severe than ever before?"

Heart attacks kill more women than breast cancer or any of the cancers combined.