What Is Heart Disease
Heart disease affects both sexes but often goes undetected in women. Although more men than women are admitted to hospital for heart attack, the number of deaths from heart attack in men and in women is roughly the same.
Cardiovascular disease often called ‘heart disease’ is an umbrella term that includes diseases and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels.
These include coronary heart disease , heart failure, arrhythmias, angina and others.
CHD is a common cause of heart attack, which occurs when blood supply to the heart is suddenly interrupted. The heart needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood delivered by the coronary arteries. If this is stopped, the heart muscle can get damaged and begin to die.
Shoulder Pain From Heart Attack
Although heart attack is most commonly associated with chest pain, it can also cause pain or discomfort in other parts of the body, including the shoulder.
Both women and men may experience shoulder pain during a heart attack. Some research suggests shoulder pain during a heart attack may be more common in women than men.
A 2018 study looked at 532 people who had an ST-elevation myocardial infarction , a type of heart attack that affects the whole heart muscle wall. Shoulder pain was twice as common in women than men. Throat and back pain were also more common in women.
Heart attack in men usually causes chest pain or discomfort, which may feel like pain, heaviness, pressure, fullness, squeezing, or heartburn. It typically lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away but returns again.
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
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Light-headedness or dizziness
- 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.
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Heart Attack Symptoms As More Younger Women Are Experiencing Medical Emergency
Health providers may miss heart attacks in younger women, even if all symptoms are observed.
- 17:25, 14 SEP 2022
Heart attacks are becoming increasingly more common in women under 50 and medical experts can’t figure out why.
John Hopkins Medicine reports that while rates of the condition has fallen among older adults, researchers were shocked to find they have risen among those aged 35-54, especially women.
As older age is a contributing factor to heart disease, health providers may miss heart attacks in younger women, even if all symptoms are observed.
There can also be confusion when it comes to spotting the differences of heart disease in men and women, reports medical website Medscape.
But experts argue that if a woman mentions chest pain, then a heart attack must be deemed a possibility until ruled out, says a new study.
There are a number of symptoms women should look out for that could be signs of a heart attack. The latest findings clarify the signs in women under 50, reports the Mirror.
Heart attack symptoms
According to the NHS, symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- Chest pain a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across your chest
- Pain in other parts of the body it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms , jaw, neck, back and tummy
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
Women And Heart Disease
The term heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and heart attack.
Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a mans disease, almost as many women as men die each year of heart disease in the United States.
This map shows death rates from heart disease in women in the United States. The darker red indicates a higher death rate.
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Why Are Men And Women Different
Womens experience of heart attacks and heart disease differ from men because:
- Womens symptoms of heart disease can arise at a much later stage in the illness than men
- Womens symptoms can be milder, vague or unusual
- Some tests used to diagnose heart disease are less accurate in women than in men
- In the event of a heart attack, women are also less likely than men to seek help quickly
- There is also less awareness of the risk and different warning signs of heart attack and heart disease in females.
Because heart disease in women often goes undetected which can delay treatment, the damage caused can be more advanced and outcomes can be poorer than for men.
Waiting For An Ambulance
If you have had a heart attack, it’s important that you rest while you wait for an ambulance, to avoid unnecessary strain on your heart.
If aspirin is available and you are not allergic to it, slowly chew and then swallow an adult-size tablet while you wait for the ambulance.
Aspirin helps to thin your blood and improve blood flow to your heart.
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When To See A Doctor
The British Heart Foundation recommend all women over 40 years of age have regular checks with their doctor. This helps identify risk factors early so that they can be treated. Early intervention reduces the chances of a cardiac event.
Anyone who notices the warning signs of a heart attack, such as the following, should see a doctor immediately:
- unusual fatigue
- shortness of breath
- upper body pain
A doctor will note symptoms, check blood pressure and heart rate, and may order blood tests or use an electrocardiogram to see the hearts electrical activity.
Only 65 percent of women would call emergency services if they suspected they were having a heart attack, according to a 2012 survey .
Emergency treatment can save lives. Anyone noticing the following symptoms should call an ambulance immediately, especially if the signs are present for 5 minutes or more:
- chest pain or discomfort
- pain in the upper body, including arms, back, neck, jaw, or shoulder
- difficulty breathing
Leading Cause Of Death For Women
Cardiovascular disease, which encompasses heart attacks, heart failure, and heart rhythm problems, is a leading cause of death for women.
Risk factors are similar for both genders, but women can present specific triggers related to hormonal changes or high-risk inflammatory profiles.
One possible explanation for differences in how each gender is affected is that men typically develop plaque build-up in the large arteries which supply blood to the heart.
Conversely, women are more likely to experience a fatty build-up in the hearts smallest blood vessels. This has led researchers to believe that symptoms differ quite significantly across both genders.
In previous research, including a study published in the journal Circulation in 2003, chest pain has been identified as the most common warning sign of heart trouble for men.
The findings suggested that chest pain is further down the list of early heart attack symptoms for women. Women tend to describe pressure, aching, and tightness in the chest, as opposed to pain.
Even during a heart attack, just a third of women in the study reported the classic symptom of chest pain. Conversely, scientists found that a looming heart attack was more often signalled by shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, sweat and dizziness.
This has led researchers to believe that looking out for these symptoms could help women avert a full-blown cardiac event.
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Do Women Have As Many Heart Attacks As Men
Coronary heart disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK every year, and it was the single biggest killer of women worldwide in 2019. Despite this, its often considered a mans disease.There are more than 800,000 women in the UK living with CHD, which is the main cause of heart attacks.
Each year more than 30,000 women are admitted to hospital in the UK due to a heart attack.
How Is A Heart Attack Diagnosed
To diagnose a heart attack, a doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your health, and your family health history. The doctor will also order tests.
Doctors often use these types of tests to diagnose a heart attack and choose the best treatment.
- Blood tests. During a heart attack, heart muscle cells die and burst open. This process releases proteins into your blood. Heart attack blood tests measure the amount of these protein “markers” of heart damage. Common heart attack blood tests include:
- Cardiac troponin . This is the most common blood test. This marker is released from the injured heart muscle. It is not found in the blood of healthy people. Troponin levels go up three to six hours after your heart attack starts, so the test may not find a heart attack right away.
- Creatine Kinase-MB . The CKMB test measures the amount of damage to the heart because of blocked blood flow. The test can tell whether treatments to restore blood flow to the heart are working. CKMB levels rise about four to six hours after a heart attack starts and peak 24 hours later.
- Myoglobin. This test helps diagnose a heart attack in the very early stages. After a heart attack, myoglobin levels rise within one to four hours but peak after 12 hours.
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How To Reduce The Risk Of Heart Attack In Females
One needs to act upon many lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing a heart attack. Such changes will keep heart attacks at bay and avoid the prevalence of any other cardiovascular disease. Mentioned below are some of the healthy changes females can strategize.
Quit smoking as well as avoid any exposure to secondhand smoking.
Eat a diet rich in grains, colorful fruits, and green leafy vegetables.
Avoid foods that have excessive fat and cholesterol.
Include fat-free dairy products.
Counseling session for reducing stress.
Taking the stairs instead of elevators.
Not sitting idle for more than 30 minutes.
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Why Your Sleep Pattern Is Vital To Your Heart And Brain Health
“Many women are concerned about their breast cancer risk, and they perceive that as their greatest health threat,” said Dr. Deirdre Mattina, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic. But “we know that one in three women are going to die of heart disease” every year.
For both women and men, signs of heart problems rarely occur in isolation.
“Symptoms often occur in clusters,” Jurgens said. “Very rarely does someone come in with just one symptom.”
And though sudden cardiac events heart attack or stroke, for example certainly appear without warning, many symptoms worsen over time.
Mattina said that patients with heart failure, for example, may report no longer being able to walk as far as they used to, or a gradual decline in the ability to take in full breaths.
“We’re looking for a pattern,” Mattina said.
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Heart Attack Symptoms Are They Different For Men And Women
Three minute read
Every year, more than one million people in the U.S. suffer from a heart attack. This means every 40 seconds someone in the US experiences congestive heart failure. Although heart disease death rates have fallen steadily for men, the rates for women have decreased only slightly.
Why is there such a discrepancy between men and women? A lot of it has to do with the variances in symptoms of heart attacks for each gender.
Difference in heart attack symptoms for men and women
Chest tightening, sweating and pain in the shoulder and arm are the most well-known symptoms of a heart attack. For years, many believed these were the only symptoms to look out for, but as we learn more about cardiovascular disease, we find that there are significant differences in how men and women experience a heart attack.
Warning signs in men
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men. In fact, 1 in every 4 males die from a heart attack. Men also experience heart attacks earlier in life compared to women. Men exhibit the following symptoms during a heart attack:
- Chest pain/tightening that feels like an elephant sitting on your chest. Also, a squeezing sensation that comes and goes or remains constant
- Upper body pain in the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Rapid heartbeats
Warning signs in women
Women are less likely to seek treatment
What to do if you think youre having a heart attack
Schedule regular check-ups
Symptoms Of Stroke In Women
Strokes are not as common as heart attacks, but can come on without warning. Here are signs that a stroke may be occurring:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Its worth noting that in some women symptoms of heart problems, like palpitations, chills or faintness, may actually be symptoms of perimenopause. However, if you are experiencing these symptoms, you should see your healthcare practitioner.
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Heart Disease Is The Leading Cause Of Death For Women In Australia And Globally
Heart disease includes any condition that affects the normal functioning of the heart, and includes coronary artery disease that causes heart attacks,arrhythmias, heart failure and heart valve problems.
It is too often perceived as a common illness among middle-aged men, but in fact, the risk of heart problems increases significantly once women reach menopause.
In fact, there are some heart diseases, such as SCAD and FMD, which affect women more than they do men.
Preventing Heart Disease In Women And Men
Women often focus on looking after partners, children or ageing parents, but it’s important for women also to prioritise their own health.
In Australia, 9 in every 10 women have one risk factor for heart disease, and half of all women have 2 or 3 risk factors. The risk factors for heart disease in both in women and men include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Women can also have the added risk factors of pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes , which may increase the chances of developing heart disease later in life.
Whether you’re a woman or a man, you will reduce your risk of developing heart disease if you:
- know the risk factors for heart disease
- talk to your doctor about ‘cardiovascular screening’ based on your family history and risk factors
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Angina And Heart Attacks
Angina is a syndrome caused by the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart becoming restricted.
People with angina can experience similar symptoms to a heart attack, but they usually happen during exercise and pass within a few minutes.
However, occasionally, people with angina can have a heart attack. It’s important to recognise the difference between the symptoms of angina and those of a heart attack. The best way to do this is to remember that the symptoms of angina can be controlled with medicine, but symptoms of a heart attack cannot.
If you have angina, you may have been prescribed medicine that improves your symptoms within 5 minutes. If the first dose does not work, a second dose can be taken after 5 minutes, and a third dose after a further 5 minutes.
If the pain persists, despite taking 3 doses of glyceryl trinitrate over 15 minutes, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Page last reviewed: 28 November 2019 Next review due: 28 November 2022
What You Can Do Now To Prevent An Early Heart Attack
Although some risk factors are beyond your control, there are many thingsyou can do to protect your heart health. It’s estimated that 80% of heartdisease, including heart attacks and strokes, can be prevented throughlifestyle changes, such as:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese increases your heart disease risk. Get tips on how to watch your weight.
- Eating a heart-healthy diet: Avoid processed foods and excess sugar. Eat a diet rich in whole, nutritious foods .
- Exercising regularly: A consistent workout routine can boost your heart health. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week. Learn the kinds of exercise that can boost heart health.
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