How Long Can A Woman Have Symptoms Or Signs Of Blockage Before A Heart Attack Occurs
Is it possible to walk around with heart attack symptoms for a period of time? Yes, but for how long is impossible to state, says Dr. Watson. Every woman is different.
Thats why if there are any worrisome symptoms its best to get them checked as soon as possible. The symptoms that should send you directly to get checked out are chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting, she says.
As for knowing whether your blood vessels to your heart are becoming blocked, unfortunately, says Dr. Watson, you probably wont. Its really hard to know pre-symptoms, she says, though you and your healthcare provider can be on the lookout if she knows your family history and is monitoring your cholesterol, blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors. What you are going to really feel are the symptoms I wish there were an early warning sign but there isnt.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Disease For Women
There tends to be a common misconception when it comes to the symptoms associated with heart disease in women. These symptoms can vary from those in men, so its important that women take the steps to understand the symptoms unique to them.
Only one in three women will experience typical heart attack symptoms such as pain in the centre of the chest. This can be severe, but can alternatively be described as uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or fullness which can last for a few minutes, go away, and then comes back.
Instead, many women suffer from less common warning signs such as:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unusual feelings of fatigue
- Heart palpitations
While these symptoms can be more subtle than the typical crushing chest pain, its important to take them seriously. Another difference to be aware of is the type of chest pain women may experience, as it tends to be described as pressure or tightness.
Womens heart attack symptoms may occur more often when they are asleep or resting and can even be triggered by stress. If you experience any of these symptoms or think you are having a heart attack, immediately call an ambulance.
What To Do During A Heart Attack
According to Go Red for Women, if you experience heart attack signs or symptoms:
- Do not wait to call for help. Dial 9-1-1, make sure to follow the operator’s instructions and get to a hospital right away.
- Do not drive yourself. Have someone drive you to the hospital, unless you have no other choice.
Try to stay as calm as possible and take deep, slow breaths while you wait for the emergency responders.
Women often misdiagnose the symptoms of a heart attack because theyâre unaware of the signs or they consider themselves healthy and donât think it could happen to them. Thatâs why itâs so important to learn about heart disease and stroke, know your numbers, live a heart-healthy lifestyle and be aware of the risk factors of heart disease.
Â© 2022 Asuris Northwest Health.
Also Check: How To Screen For Heart Attack
When To Call 911
If you suspect that you or someone else might be having a heart attack, call 911 or local emergency services right away. Immediate treatment can be lifesaving.
Long-term follow-up care is also important to improve outcomes.
Heart attack causes damage to your heart muscle, which can lead to potentially life threatening complications. Although more research is needed, some complications appear to be more common in women than men.
According to a 2016 review from the AHA, women are more likely than men to develop symptoms of heart failure following a heart attack. They also have a higher risk of death in the months and years following a heart attack.
The review found that 26 percent of women and 19 percent of men die within 1 year following a first heart attack, and 47 percent of women and 36 percent of men die within 5 years.
Some for these gender differences include:
- There may be a delay in recognizing womens symptoms.
- Women may be undertreated.
Dont Hesitate To Call 911
You might not have all of these heart attack warning signs. But if youre having any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Dont wait.
In her work, Dr. Lee has seen both younger and older women put off going to the doctor even when theyre feeling heart attack symptoms. Young women are often focused on being the caretaker for their children or elderly parents, and they dont come into the hospital because theres no one else to take care of their children or parents, she says.
On the flip side, Dr. Lee has seen older women who are widowed and live alone not want to bother their children or friends. These women may be having chest pain, but they dont want to bother people. So they sit at home and hope the symptoms go away, she says. Sometimes, they dont drive and are too embarrassed to ask for help.
I think a lot of times women are used to being the caregivers, so when they themselves need help they arent used to asking for it, Dr. Lee says. This could be another reason why women wait so long to get care for heart attacks.
But its important to listen to your body and prioritize your health.
Bottom line: If youre not sure if youre having a heart attack, come into the hospital to get checked out. The earlier you come in for medical care, Dr. Lee says, the earlier we can start therapy and the less damage there will be to the heart.
Do Hormones Affect Your Risk Of A Heart Attack
Many women use prescription hormone drugs for birth control or for reducingsymptoms of menopause . Could thesedrugs jeopardize your heart health?
“Birth control pills can increase your risk of having a blood clot, eitherin the heart or in the legs, and they can also raise your blood pressure.So, if you have a history of high blood pressure or clotting problems,other types of contraception might be a better fit for you,” says Colliver.”But for most young women, it’s safe to take birth control medication.”
Colliver notes that women over the age of 50 are at an increased risk forheart disease and should completely avoid estrogen and progesterone drugs,if possible. “If your overall risk of heart attack is extremely low and youdesperately need relief from hot flashes and other postmenopausal symptoms,then hormone replacement therapy may be fine for you,” says Colliver. “Butafter the age of 65, we really try to avoid using them at all because theydo increase the risk of heart disease and potentially breast cancer.”
Do Women Experience Different Heart Attack Symptoms
It is important to remember that everyone experiences different heart attack symptoms. The symptoms of a subsequent heart attack may be different from the first.
Women are more likely than men to experience heart attack symptoms without chest discomfort. If they do have tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest, this discomfort may not always be severe or even the most noticeable symptom.
Sometimes a person can have no heart attack symptoms at all. In these cases the heart attack isn’t diagnosed until it is picked up by a clinician at a later date. This is sometimes called a silent heart attack.
Also Check: Survival Rate For Open Heart Surgery
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Heart Disease
To lower your chances of getting heart disease, its important to do the following:7
- Know your blood pressure. Having uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so its important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Learn more about high blood pressure.
- Talk to your doctor or health care team about whether you should be tested for diabetes. Having uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk of heart disease.8 Learn more about diabetes.
- Quit smoking. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you do smoke, learn ways to quit.
- Discuss checking your blood cholesterol and triglycerides with your doctor. Learn more about cholesterol.
- Make healthy food choices. Having overweight or obesity raises your risk of heart disease. Learn more about overweight and obesity.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink to one drink a day. Learn more about alcohol.
- Manage stress levels by finding healthy ways to cope with stress. Learn more about coping with stress.
What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease
You may already know many of the risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, weight gain around the middle, smoking and high blood pressure. But there are other lesser-known risk factors that are also important. Heres what to do about them:
A note about declining estrogen in menopause. After the age of 55, your risk of heart attack increases greatly, especially if youve gone through menopause. This may be because of estrogen’s protective effects on the inner lining of the blood vessels when estrogen declines, so does the health of the blood vessel walls. But, hormone replacement therapy carries risks too. The Womens Health Initiative showed that both equine-based and synthetic hormone replacement therapies increase heart disease risk in postmenopausal women.
You may also notice that other risk factors increase around menopause. This is more likely if youve had less than healthy diet and lifestyle habits in the past and thats most of us! But remember, you can still do so much to reduce your risk going forward.
Also Check: How Do You Calculate Target Heart Rate
What Are The Risk Factors For Women’s Heart Disease
While several traditional risk factors for heart disease can affect both women and men, other factors may play a greater role in the onset of heart disease in women. These can include:
- Some other risk factors which cannot be controlled include menopause, pregnancy complications like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes , age, and family history.
A family history of heart disease does increase your risk of illness and death, but researchers at the Institute have made an exciting discovery which could reduce the rate of heart attacks in women and transform the treatment of heart and vascular disease for females.
The Institutes Executive Director, Professor Jason Kovacic, was at the centre of the new sex-specific research which compared the genetic changes of men and women at risk of a heart attack, allowing for a better understanding of Australias biggest killer.
Signs of poor heart health are not always obvious, which is why it’s important to regularly monitor things like your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and glucose. It is also important to encourage the women close to you to have regular check-ups to reduce the risk of heart disease or heart attack.
Angina In Women Can Be Different Than Men
Coronary artery disease occurs when fatty build-up in your coronary arteries, called plaque, prevents adequate blood flow thats needed to provide oxygen to your heart muscle.
As coronary artery disease progresses, you may have tightness, pressure or discomfort in your chest during physical activity or when stressed. It may go away shortly after you stop the activity or get rid of the stress. If the blockages worsen, it may take longer for the pain to go away, or you might experience pain at rest.
Angina symptoms in women can also include nausea, vomiting, pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen or back and feeling out of breath. Once the extra demand for blood and oxygen stops, so do the symptoms. These symptoms are not always recognized as a symptom of a heart condition in women. As a result, treatment for women can be delayed.
Also Check: Grain Free Dog Food Heart Failure
An Inability To Do What You Were Able To Do Before
Defining this symptom can be somewhat difficult because its less a universal heart attack sign and more dependent on your individual experiences and baseline energy levels.
Its a significant change in your functional status, is how I would put it, says Dr. Cho. You were able to be on the treadmill 20 minutes, but now you can barely do 10 because you just feel so tired.
Symptoms Vary Between Men And Women
As with men, womens most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Recommended Reading: What Is My Target Heart Rate Zone
How Can You Keep Your Heart Healthy
Now that we know just how serious an issue this is, its important to know what you can do to keep your heart as healthy as possible. And, while its true that everyone has a heart, its also important to know that womens heart health is different from mens.
Heart issues in young women: During childbearing years, women have increased estrogen levels. This helps prevent cholesterol buildup in your arteries, which can decrease your risk of developing heart disease. However, when pregnant, a woman can develop pregnancy-related diabetes or high blood pressure, which can put you at increased risk for heart disease.
To help your heart health at a younger age, you can:
- Keep an eye on it: Especially if you experienced one of those pregnancy-related conditions we just mentioned, keep on top of it with your doctor and keep a close eye on your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Eat right: Its never too early to start a heart-healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.
- Work on your fitness: Most experts recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week in bursts of at least 10 minutes at a time to keep your cardiovascular system in shape.
- Dont smoke: Dont start smoking, and if you currently smoke, try to quit as soon as possible, while youre younger and less damage has been done.
Signs of heart attack in women over 40: As your estrogen levels decrease during and after menopause, your risk of heart disease increases.
Warning Signs Of A Heart Attack In Women
Heart attacks are often stereotyped as something that happens to older men, not women. But heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.1 Yet only about half of women know this.1
Plus, the way women experience a heart attack can feel different from men. While both men and women may have chest pain during a heart attack, women tend to have symptoms in addition to chest pain.
Researchers found that when women have a heart attack, theyre more likely to experience 3 or more related symptoms compared to men.2 These symptoms may include jaw pain, neck pain, back pain, and shortness of breath, and can make it hard for women to tell if theyre having a heart attack.
Women are also more likely than men to think their heart attack symptoms are caused by anxiety and stress.2 Oftentimes, this misunderstanding combined with a wider range of symptoms can cause women to wait longer to get treated.
Several studies have shown that women wait longer to get treatment for a heart attack than men, says Mingsum Lee, MD, a clinical cardiologist at Kaiser Permanentes Los Angeles Medical Center.
So, its important to learn these symptoms of a heart attack and know when to seek care.
Don’t Miss: How Do You Measure Heart Rate
What To Do If You Think Youre Having A Heart Attack
If you think youre having a heart attack or heart attack symptoms, call for emergency medical help. Dont ignore or delay it, as every minute counts. Treating a heart attack early can limit or prevent damage to your heart.
At the hospital, speak up for yourself or bring someone who can advocate for you. Tell the doctor you are concerned about your heart. Describe your symptoms, how long youve had them, and your medical history.
Recommended Reading: What Should My Heart Rate Be While Running
Heart Attack Treatment For Women
The treatment for heart attack in women is the same as it is for men.
A recent study in the United Kingdom showed that women having a heart attack were 50% more likely than men to be misdiagnosed, leading to a delay in treatment and poorer outcomes. However there is no evidence to show that the same is true for New Zealand women.
Recommended Reading: What To Wear After Heart Surgery
Know Your Risk: Book A Heart Health Check
Do you know what your risk of having a heart attack or stroke is? 1.4 million Australians have a high chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years, but many are unaware of this risk.
The main risk factors affecting both men and women include:
- high blood pressure
- lack of physical activity
- being above a healthy weight
- unhealthy diet, including eating foods with saturated fats or added salt and low fruit and vegetable intake
- excessive alcohol consumption
- depression and social isolation
You should also be aware of atrial fibrillation, which is associated with one in four strokes. Atrial fibrillation causes an irregular heartbeat. This can allow blood clots to form in the heart which can then break away from the heart wall and travel to the brain, where it may cause a stroke. To find out if you have atrial fibrillation or if you experience symptoms such as palpitations, weakness, faintness or breathlessness, see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor will advise you on how best to manage your atrial fibrillation.
Anyone 45 years and over or 30 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have a regular heart health check with their doctor. Heart health checks can identify issues and determine your risk factor by checking your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Your GP can support you to make positive changes to lower this risk.