College of Osteopathic Medicine Faculty Articles


Women and non-cardiac chest pain: gender differences in symptom presentation.



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Archives of Women’s Mental Health





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A substantial number of individuals evaluated for complaints of chest pain do not suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD). Studies show that many patients who complain of symptoms that might be caused by CHD, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, may actually have an anxiety disorder. Gender differences in how patients present with these symptoms have not been adequately explored. The purpose of this study was to explore possible gender differences in the presentation of patients with CHD-like symptoms. Two groups were examined, one comprising 6,381 individuals self-referred for electron beam tomography (EBT) studies and a subset of these individuals who defined a "low-risk" group based on the absence of risk factors for CHD and low coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores. We explored gender differences in symptom presentation in each group after controlling for relevant variables by using logistic regression models. These analyses showed that women were significantly more likely than men to endorse CHD symptoms that might also be caused by an anxiety disorder. Women in the low risk group reported CHD symptoms also referable to anxiety more often than men, but unlike men did not complain primarily of chest pain. Women were also more likely to have been prescribed antianxiety or antidepressant medication. In previous studies, non-cardiac chest pain has been considered a hallmark of anxiety in individuals seen in medical settings. This study suggests that in individuals with low risk for CHD chest pain was not related to gender, but other anxiety-related symptoms including heart flutter, lightheadedness, nausea, and shortness of breath were more likely to be reported in women than in men.


Medical Specialties | Medicine and Health Sciences | Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathy


Adult, Aged, Anxiety, Chest Pain, Coronary Disease, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Questionnaires, Sex Factors, Tomography, X-Ray Computed, Young Adult