At increasing numbers, women are experiencing heart attacks. Often considered a medical issue most dangerous for men, heart disease is affecting women at an alarming rate and it is the number one killer of women. Women usually develop heart disease and have heart attacks at a later age than men, and too often, the early warning signs of a heart attack are ignored by women and their doctors.
The staff at Woman's Hospital would like to share how woman experience a heart attack, so that when these warning signs arise, the women of the community will know to seek help immediately.
- One warning sign of a heart attack is an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It may last a few minutes or more and then may go away and come back.
- You may also experience pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Another symptom is shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Here are some other issues to consider:
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. However, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in a study, women experience chest pain in less than half of heart attacks, while most doctors consider this the main warning signal.
- The NIH study shows that the most common symptoms in women are shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, weakness, cold sweats and dizziness.
- Women's heart attack symptoms are less predictable and are not as easy to recognize than those in men, making rapid diagnosis more difficult. Careful recognition of warning signs of an attack are crucial as early treatment can prevent more serious damage and even death.
- Women have a tendency to complain less about symptoms than men do (we won't go into the reasons why they complain less!), but it is vital that any changes or discomfort that a woman experiences should be immediately brought to a doctor's attention.
- One final indicator that you might be having a heart attack is a sudden, inexplicable feeling of doom or anxiety.
In the event that you are experiencing the signs of a heart attack, call 911 immediately. The staff at Woman's Hospital would rather you err on the side of overreacting than not reacting at all. The difference could be your life.
Since February is American Heart Month, this is a good time to assess your cardiovascular health. If you want to discuss your risk for heart disease, schedule an appointment with your physician. At Woman's Hospital, we can refer you to a physician and answer any questions that you have.