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Why Men and Women Have Different Warning Signs of Cardiac Arrest?

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While the chance of experiencing a cardiac arrest isn’t subjected to sex bias, research suggests there are noteworthy differences in the pre-cursor symptoms experienced by men and women. Identifying these signs and acting promptly can significantly improve survival rates, thereby emphasizing the necessity for increased awareness about these sex-associated discrepancies.

Why Men and Women Have Different Warning Signs of Cardiac Arrest?

Divergent Signs of Cardiac Arrest

In a compelling study published in Lancet Digital Health, researchers found that men and women exhibit different early warning symptoms within 24 hours preceding a sudden cardiac arrest1. The researchers reviewed the medical data of individuals who had used emergency medical services for cardiac arrest and a similar control group.

The study spotlighted that shortness of breath was a chief pre-cursor sign in women who experienced cardiac arrest. Quite contrarily, the majority of men reported chest pain prior to their attack, accompanied by labored breathing and sweating1. These findings bolster previously established research pinpointing sexual dimorphisms in the presentation of heart attacks2.

Dr. Sumeet Chugh, the senior author of the study and leader at the Center for Cardiac Arrest Prevention, posits, “If men have sudden and unexpected chest pain their risk of imminent sudden cardiac arrest is 2-fold higher… [and] if women have sudden and unexpected shortness of breath, they have a 3-fold increased chance of having an imminent cardiac arrest”1.

The Importance of Recognizing Early Symptoms

Given the 90% mortality rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests1, it’s critical to recognize and act promptly on early warning signs. Not only could this save lives, but it also has the potential to improve overall health outcomes. Alarming though, only 19% of people reportedly call 911 for early warning signs like chest pain or labored breathing1.

The researchers hope that their findings can assist people in better predicting impending cardiac arrests, thus enhancing their likelihood of survival from this mostly lethal condition1.

Tackling the Challenges

Identifying early warning signs calls for insightful navigation through myriad symptoms that are often shared with less lethal health issues. This could be a potential reason why few people seek immediate help during the early signs of cardiac arrest1.

Also, an excess of caution could lead to an overwhelmed healthcare system, as Dr. Chugh mentions, “If everyone with all kinds of warning symptoms starts [calling] their local 911, the system could be overwhelmed within a matter of hours likely with no discernible improvements in survival from sudden cardiac arrest”1.

Consequently, developing a robust and predictive system is paramount. It could aid not only in identifying patients who can receive preemptive medical intervention in time to prevent the arrest but also ensure the effective use of emergency healthcare services1.

In essence, while cardiac arrests affect men and women alike, gaining insights into their variant early warning signs offers a compelling opportunity to boost survival outcomes. Overlooking the critical sex-based differences can mean the difference between life and death, and unmasking these differences paves the way for targeted prevention techniques and timely intervention.


  1. “Men and Women Have Different Warning Signs of Cardiac Arrest”, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/men-and-women-have-different-warning-signs-of-cardiac-arrest. ↩2 ↩3 ↩4 ↩5 ↩6 ↩7 ↩8 ↩9
  2. “Sex Differences in Symptom Presentation Associated With Acute Myocardial Infarction: A Population-Based Perspective”, American Journal of Cardiology, https://www.ajconline.org/article/S0002-9149(09)01123-6/fulltext.