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14:36 PM

A Typical Heart: Documenting Heart Disease in Women

Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center in the Smidt Heart Institute, was recently featured in a new documentary, A Typical Heart, which explores the deadly disparities between men and women who have heart disease. 

Told through the lenses of healthcare professionals, researchers, patients and their families, the documentary details the gender gap affecting thousands of women diagnosed with heart disease – the leading cause of premature death among women. The story also reveals how health providers like Bairey-Merz are educating patients about differences in heart disease symptoms. 

“While two-thirds of men will have the class ‘Hollywood-type’ heart attack, women will only have that one third of the time,” Bairey Merz said.  

Those classic symptoms, she explains, include clenching your chest due to pain and pressure, shortness of breath, fainting, nausea, vomiting, pain in shoulders, pain in arms, sweating and dizziness.

“However, the other two-thirds of women will experience atypical symptoms like stomach indigestion, shortness of breath, cold sweats or radiating pain into their jaw or arm,” Bairey Merz said. “It will often not be detected on traditional diagnostics and the woman then told there is nothing wrong with her.”

Bairey Merz also highlighted women-specific risk factors of heart disease, which she says include hypertension during pregnancy, preeclampsia, eclampsia, a baby that is too large or too small, or gestational diabetes.

“Less lives would be lost if we had sex-specific protocols,” she said.  

Click here to watch the complete A Typical Heart documentary. 

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Fighting Heart Disease in Young Women