When Should You Call 911 For A Heart Problem
At certain times, calling 911 right away is a must. If youre having chest pressure or chest tightness that started that day, you should not wait to go to your general practitioner, says Dr. Cho. Go to the emergency room.
You should also call 911 and get help right away if you have chest pain or discomfort along with any of the following symptoms, especially if they last longer than five minutes:
- Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
- Sweating or cold sweat.
- Light-headedness, dizziness, extreme weakness or anxiety.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
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.
How Men And Women Experience Heart Attack
Women and men can experience the signs and symptoms of a heart attack differently.
Men may experience:
- shortness of breath
Although chest pain is thought to be the most common symptom of heart attack and it is common in men only about half of all women who have a heart attack actually report chest pain.
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How Symptoms Of Heartburn Differ From Symptoms Of Heart Attack
While both conditions may possess the same symptoms, the areas these conditions affect are different.
For starters, heartburn pains begin around the upper part of the stomach before gradually moving toward the chest. On the other hand, a heart attack involves an uncomfortable sensation in the center or left side of the chest. This sensation may sometimes be described as a certain squeezing or pressure on the chest.
Heartburn is also quite noticeable, especially after eating a meal, while the pains accompanying a heart attack are sudden. Finally, heartburn will leave you with a sour taste due to the rising acid. On the other hand, heart attacks will leave you with shortness of breath.
Signs And Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women
Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person but the most common signs of a heart attack are:
- chest pain or discomfort in your chest that suddenly occurs and doesn’t go away. It may feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing
- the pain may spread to your left or right arm or may spread to your neck, jaw, back or stomach
- you may also feel sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.
Other less common symptoms include:
- a sudden feeling of anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack
- excessive coughing or wheezing
If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 999 for an ambulance immediately.
Women may be less likely to seek medical attention and treatment quickly, despite the warning signs. This can dramatically reduce your chance of survival. Rapid treatment is essential, and the aim is to restore blood flow to the affected part of the heart muscle as soon as possible. This helps to limit the amount of damage to the heart.
- Learn more about heart attack symptoms.
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Heart Attack Types And Diagnosis
A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction, sometimes simply referred to as an MI. A heart attack occurs when a blockage in one or more coronary arteries reduces or stops blood flow to the heart, which starves part of the heart muscle of oxygen.
The blood vessel blockage might be complete or partial:
- A complete blockage of a coronary artery means you suffered a STEMI heart attack which stands for ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
- A partial blockage translates to an NSTEMI heart attack a non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
Diagnostic steps differ for STEMI and NSTEMI heart attacks, although there can be some overlap.
Remember: Never try to diagnose yourself. Always dial 911 if you think you might be having a heart attack. The EMS crew in your ambulance will route you to the right hospital based on your location.
Pregnancy And Heart Attacks
Heart attacks are not common among pregnant women, but they are possible both during and soon after delivery. Normal changes to your body during pregnancy can raise your risk of a heart attack. Your age, lifestyle habits, and other health conditions, such as bleeding disorders, obesity, preeclampsia , and diabetes, can also raise your risk.
If you already have coronary artery disease, being pregnant can raise your risk of a heart attack. Coronary artery disease is a major cause of heart attacks during pregnancy. Ask your doctor whether it is safe for you to get pregnant and what steps you need to take to keep your heart healthy during your pregnancy.
Heart attacks caused by spontaneous coronary artery dissection , a coronary artery embolus, or a coronary artery spasm are more common in pregnant women than in people who are not pregnant.
If you have symptoms of a heart attack during your pregnancy, or at any time, . Your healthcare team will take steps to protect your baby during these tests. Your healthcare team will also make sure that any treatment you take for a heart attack is safe to use during pregnancy.
Watch one womans story about surviving a heart attack soon after delivery.
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What Not To Do
If you feel heart attack symptoms:
- Donât delay getting help. “Women generally wait longer than men before going to the emergency room,” says Rita F. Redberg, MD, MSc, FACC, director of Women’s Cardiovascular Services for the UCSF Division of Cardiology in San Francisco. Even if you think your symptoms arenât that bad or will pass, the stakes are too high.
- Don’t drive yourself to the hospital. You need an ambulance. If you drive, you could have a wreck on the way and possibly hurt yourself or someone else.
- Donât have a friend or relative drive you, either. You may not get there fast enough.
- Donât dismiss what you feel. “Don’t worry about feeling silly if you’re wrong,” Goldberg says. You have to get it checked out right away.
“People don’t want to spend hours in an emergency room if it isn’t a heart attack,” Bairey Merz says. “But women are actually good at deciding what is typical for themselves and when to seek health care.”
Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director, Joan H. Tisch Center for Womenâs Health, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York.
C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, FACC, FAHA, director, Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center director, Preventive Cardiac Center professor of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.
Rita F. Redberg, MD, MSc, FACC, director, Women’s Cardiovascular Services, UCSF division of cardiology professor of medicine, UCSF School of Medicine, San Francisco editor, JAMA Internal Medicine.
After You Are Treated
After you have been treated, you will be transferred to a Coronary Care Unit so you can recover. The CCU is a special part of the hospital for heart patients. You will be monitored 24 hours a day and can be treated right away if you have problems. Most women will stay in the hospital for four to five days after a heart attack. As you recover, more tests may be done to see how well your heart is working and develop a long-term treatment plan.
After you leave the hospital, you should always make an appointment to see your own doctor or cardiologist as soon as possible. The ER doctor is NOT a substitute for your own doctor. Together, you can discuss the things you can do to recover faster and prevent future problems.
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Warning Signs Of A Heart Attack In Women
People often think that heart attacks are something that happen 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 also have more symptoms than just 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 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.
What Should I Do If I Have Heart Attack Symptoms
If you think you, or someone else, may be having a heart attack, call 911 right away. Do not drive yourself to the hospital, and do not let a friend drive you. You may need medical help on the way to the hospital. Ambulance workers are trained to treat you on the way to the emergency room.
Getting to the hospital quickly is important. Treatments for opening clogged arteries work best within the first hour after a heart attack starts.
If you think you’re having a heart attack, get emergency help right away. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are overreacting or to wait and see. Get tips on how best to describe your symptoms and how to ask for tests that can show whether you’re having a heart attack.
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How To Avoid Acid Reflux
There are various ways you can lower your chances of experiencing heartburn.
- First, you must avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and citrus. These things cause the valve between the esophagus and the stomach to relax, making it easier for free acid to rise.
- It is also important to raise your bed before you sleep if you experience heartburn at night. Raising the bed about 6 inches from the ground allows gravity to help keep the contents of your stomach in your stomach.
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.
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Why Heart Disease Goes Undiagnosed In Women
Australian women are more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer. This is partly because heart disease is often not recognised in women. The reasons for this include:
- Women often develop symptoms of heart disease at a much later stage in the illness than men.
- Symptoms can be more vague or non-specific in women.
- Women are less likely to seek help quickly.
- Some diagnostic tests for heart disease are less accurate in women than in men.
- Some health professionals may be less likely to check for heart disease in women.
There is also less community awareness of the risk of heart disease in females. Many Australian women mistakenly assume that heart disease mostly affects middle-aged men, which is not the case.
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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Testing: What To Expect
The hours following a heart attack can be scary and confusing. Your medical team may be incredibly busy and focused, and hard-pressed to explain everything thats happening.
You and your caregivers are sure to have questions. You may wonder about the tests and procedures that are being performed.
In the section below, youll find descriptions of the kinds of diagnostic procedures you may encounter as your doctors strive to identify the underlying causes of your heart attack.
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.
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.
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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.”
Symptoms Unique To Women
During a heart attack, women are less likely to experience the crushing chest pain that some men describe as an elephant sitting on their chest. Instead, women may feel a persistent pain in the back, neck, jaw, or even shoulder blades. Before or during a heart attack, women are also more likely to experience fatigue, sweating, and nausea, as well as indigestion that might be mistaken for heartburn. If you feel like you just finished a marathon but you havent moved, you should take notice, explained Duke cardiologist Radha Kachhy, MD.
Another important warning sign to note besides where pain is located is when it occurs. If it happens during times of exertion, it should be taken seriously. One of my patients said her shoulder hurt every time she walked. She thought it was her purse, but her shoulder throbbed even when she wasnt holding her purse, Dr. Kachhy said.
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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.
About Norton Heart & Vascular Institute
Every year, about 250,000 people in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose Norton Heart & Vascular Institute specialists for their heart and vascular care. Thats more than any other health care provider.
- Norton Healthcares four adult-service hospitals in Louisville are American College of Cardiology accredited Cycle VI Chest Pain Centers the highest level of expertise to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack.
- You have access to more than 45 board-certified cardiovascular physicians and more than 35 advanced practice providers with specialized training and experience in a comprehensive range of conditions and treatments.
- Patients can make appointments at 27 locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Telecardiology is offered at more than 30 sites in the region.
- Norton Audubon Hospital, a key location for Norton Heart & Vascular Institute services, has been recognized with a HeartCare Center National Distinction of Excellence year after year by the American College of Cardiology. This is the only hospital in Louisville to be recognized for this distinction.
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