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
Are There Complications Of A Heart Attack
Complications following a heart attack can include:
- Arrhythmia your heart may develop an irregular heartbeat following a heart attack due to damaged heart muscles disrupting electrical signals.
- Heart failure your heart may have ongoing difficulty pumping enough blood, due to its muscles being too weak or stiff.
- Cardiogenic shock where your whole body goes into shock from extensive heart muscle damage.
- Heart rupture this is a rare but serious complication in which the hearts muscles, walls or valves split apart.
These can be dangerous if untreated, but your healthcare team will help to manage them if they occur.
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.
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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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.
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.
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Womens Heart Attack Symptoms
For both men and women, the most common symptom of a heart attack is chest discomfort or pain. Some people, especially women, may have a heart attack without any chest pain or pressure.
Researchers found that of 515 women who had heart attacks, only 29.7% said they had chest discomfort. Those who experienced chest symptoms described feeling tightness, aching, or pressure, but not pain.
This information is not widely known. A survey found that while nearly 60% of women knew that chest pain is a heart attack symptom, they were not as aware of other womens heart attack symptoms, like fatigue and nausea.
Because women tend to report other symptoms, there has sometimes been misdiagnosis or delay in treatment of their heart attack.
There may also be knowledge gaps when it comes to women and heart disease. Experts say that heart-related research studies have often been done with more male participants than females. Only about 34% of participants in cardiovascular research clinical trials are women.
Heart Attack Risk Factors For Women
There are several factors that increase your chance of developing heartdisease. Almost 50% of all Americans have at least one of three major riskfactors for the condition:
- High blood pressure: Women can develop high blood pressure as a side effect of birth control pills or during pregnancy. All women over 65 are more likely than men are to have high blood pressure.
- High cholesterol: Estrogen seems to protect women against unhealthy levels of cholesterol. But after menopause, estrogen levels drop and high cholesterol becomes more likely.
- Smoking: Although men are slightly more likely to smoke, the gap in cigarette usage between genders is smaller than ever and women are less likely to be able to quit successfully.
Additional risk factors include:
- Excessive alcohol use
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Lets Win This Together
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. Support the innovative research, education and prevention services that protect the women we love.
Weve all seen the movie scenes where a man gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the ground. In reality, a heart attack victim could easily be a woman, and the scene may not be that dramatic.
Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Womens Health at NYUs Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.
Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesnt get help right away.
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What Are The First Warning Signs Of A Heart Attack In A Woman
When a woman is having a heart attack, one of the first things she may notice is that shes feeling incredibly tired that is, more tired than the usual work-kids-Im-in-charge-of-everything kind of tired. Theres very good information on what premonitory symptoms that women had prior to being diagnosed, and the most common is overwhelming fatigue, says Dr. Watson.
You might not think youre having a heart attack when you feel this way, because it could be something else, and frankly, who hasnt felt totally wiped?
But heres the thing: Its almost always accompanied by something else: Chest pain, chest pressure, shortness of breath, indigestion, says Dr. Watson. Fatigue, says Dr. Watson, might not be the most prominent symptom, so its important to look at the totality of what youre feeling. If you have overwhelming fatigue and any of those other things, thats a sign that something is off, she says.
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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.
How Do You Prevent A Heart Attack
Can a heart attack be avoided?
Theres no black and white answer. Following a healthy lifestyle is the key to staying safe from symptoms of heart attack.
Here are a few health tips you could try to avoid :
- Exercise daily:
A regular fitness routine is a foundation of staying healthy. At a minimum, start with a daily brisk walk. Step out, breathe in the fresh air, use those muscles, and get active.
- Eat nutritious meals:
Include more veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean meat , lentils, and low-fat dairy items in your diet. Cut down on added sugars, processed products, and foods with high trans/saturated fats.
- Manage your stress levels:
Practice self-care daily to prevent excessive stress. Start journaling, aromatherapy, afternoon bath, art therapy, or music therapy to get rid of anxiety.
- Reduce your alcohol intake:
Alcohol addiction is among the major causes of heart blockage in females. Only drink occasionally or limit to one drink per day.
- Avoid smoking:
Seriously, quit smoking! It causes more harm than good, particularly to your respiratory system and arteries. Smoking is the leading cause of plaque formation, which results in several silent signs of heart attack in women.
Did you find this info useful? I hope you learned the many warning signs of female heart attacks that are often missed.
Do you have any daily healthy practices to reduce heart attack in your body? Share with me in the comments below.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. Other symptoms of a heart attack include:
- shortness of breath
- to the neck, jaw or shoulders
Most symptoms of a heart attack are the same for men and women.
Women are more likely to feel some discomfort in the chest rather than a sharp pain or tightness. The milder symptoms do not mean that a woman’s heart attack is any less severe than a man’s heart attack. Any symptoms of a heart attack should be taken seriously.
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.
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What Women Need To Know Thats Different From Men
For a long time there was a sense that women didnt have the chest pain that men do, and thats not true, says Lichtman. The number one thing women need to know is that chest pain or pressure is in fact one of the symptoms , even if it doesnt feel like the stereotype of a crushing weight on your chest. My rule is, if you have any symptoms between your navel and your nose, that comes on with exertion and goes away with rest, you have to think about your heart, says Dr. Watson.
For a long time there was a sense that women didnt have chest pain as men do, and thats not true
The other thing women need to know thats different from men is that they may have multiple symptoms, and not to disregard the fact that chest pain is one of them. Why? I think its a combination of things, Lichtman says. In the back of peoples minds, especially with younger women, people would rather have something else be the cause than a heart attack, she says. Theyd much rather it be, say, indigestion over a heart attack, so they tend to focus on the less dire possibilities.
Doctors, too, may not think heart attack if when they hear chest pain as just one of many symptoms. Its different for different providers, but for some, the order in which you hear is the order of intensity, she says. So if a woman lists chest pressure as third or fourth on the list, it may take the doctor longer to think of a heart attack.
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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Impact Of Aging On A Womans Heart
As women age, their risk of dying from heart disease increases. A womans chance of suffering a heart attack doubles between the ages of 60 and 79, and doubles again once they hit 80. The risk of a heart attack being fatal increases significantly every ten years for women, and the higher risk almost always begins after menopause.
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. Its 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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Heart Attack Or Something Else
Although a heart attack may be the first thing that comes to mind, other common medical conditions can cause similar symptoms.
Dr. Vaishnav notes these conditions can mimic a heart attack:
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Pulmonary embolism
- Emotional stress
If you’re having symptoms, even minor ones, talk to your doctor or head to the nearest emergency room.
Wed much rather you get checked and be fine, Dr. Vaishnav says.
What Are The Risk Factors For Heart Attack
Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack. These are called risk factors. About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking.2
Some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history. But you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control.
Learn more about risk factors for heart disease and heart attack.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Disease
Although some women have no symptoms, others may have5
- Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat
- Pain in the upper abdomen or back
These symptoms may happen when you are resting or when you are doing regular daily activities. Women also may have other symptoms, including5
Sometimes heart disease may be silent and not diagnosed until you have other symptoms or emergencies, including5
- Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath
- Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest
- Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins
If you have any of these symptoms,
Understand Your Risk Of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women and men. But both heart attacks and heart disease can appear differently in women than in men. This disparity means that women are more likely to have undiagnosed heart conditions, and they may not even know when theyre at risk for heart attack.
If youre a woman, its important to educate yourself about your heart health. Risk factors that increase your chances of heart disease and heart attack include:
Heart disease is common, but its preventable in many cases. Our team is dedicated to helping you strengthen your heart and live your healthiest life.
We partner with you, evaluating your medical history, family history, and current condition to propose a heart-healthy plan thats right for you. Managing pre-existing conditions and making a range of healthy lifestyle choices can make a big difference for your heart and help reduce your risk of heart attack.
Trust your heart health to our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute. To learn more about the risks of heart disease and how to spot a heart attack, book an appointment at one of our offices in Newark, Secaucus, or Paramus, New Jersey. Use the online scheduler or give us a call.
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