What are the Different Coronary Artery Disease Symptoms?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2019
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Coronary artery disease (CAD) is an exceptionally dangerous illness that can ultimately result in heart attack or myocardial infarction. Often, the beginnings of this condition occur many years before symptoms like heart attack develop and in early stages, CAD is typically asymptomatic. As the blood vessels that supply the heart become more impaired, symptoms can start to develop and these could take many different forms, depending on the person. Moreover, recent studies in this area suggest there can be significant difference between the way coronary artery disease symptoms manifest in women and men, even if they have the same basic illnesses from constricted blood vessels.

One of the early coronary artery disease symptoms suggestive of poorly functioning coronary blood vessels often occurs when people exert, even just a little. People may become short of breath as a result. It often doesn’t take much to produce fatigue or shortness of breath. It might occur from walk up a flight of stairs, briskly walking the length of a block, or due to other quick exertions. As CAD progresses, shortness of breath might increase.

Another of the coronary artery disease symptoms is developing angina. This is described as chest pain occurring at varying times. Here, the differences between how men and women experience this symptom are sharply delineated.


Men may notice discomfort that feels like tightness or squeezing of the chest. Many note a sensation of heaviness when an angina attack occurs. Women can feel different than this, though some do report tight squeezing. Others suggest the pain burns or is sharp instead of squeezing, which might cause people to confuse it with heartburn, and occasionally pain is not felt in the chest and is instead felt in the belly, the back, or one of the arms.

Of course, one of the classic and most severe coronary artery disease symptoms is actual myocardial infarction. Classic description of heart attack symptoms includes pain in the chest, possibly indigestion, pain radiating from either arm, inability to catch the breath, and potentially profuse perspiration. Men are likely to experience these symptoms, but some women have a far different experience.

First, women experiencing a heart attack don’t necessarily have chest pain. Instead pain might be felt in the arms, shoulders, back, stomach, and particularly the jaw. Another common feeling is strong anxiety, which could be dismissed as a panic attack. Indigestion is common, as is feeling like throwing up or actually throwing up. An additional symptom frequently reported is difficulty sleeping before, during or after a heart attack.

These differences in coronary artery disease symptoms have often led to underdiagnosis of CAD in women, either because they don’t report them or because when they do tell a doctor, the symptoms don’t sound the same as the classic ones reported by most men. This is fortunately changing with more studies in this area and with generally greater awareness of the subtlety with which CAD may present in women. Presently, it still falls upon women and men to be aware of coronary artery disease symptoms especially associated with their gender, and to see a doctor if they suspect this condition may be present.



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