Warning Signs Your Body Gives You Before A Heart Attack
Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in both men and women worldwide. Contrast to what you may see in a movie, the signs of a heart attack can be hard to miss. âTwo-thirds of women will have less-typical, non-Hollywood heart attack symptoms,â says C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., director of the Barbra Streisand Womenâs Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.
Though symptoms like chest tightness and upper body pain are more obvious, heart attacks present a host of symptoms that can be easily mistaken for another ailment . Identifying the signs of a heart attack and seeking early intervention can be the difference between life or death. Here are the most common symptoms to look out for.
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.
Other Potential Heart Attack Signs
Heart attack signs look different for everyone, although there are a few common ones to watch for.
- Neck, jaw, arm, and back pain: Pain radiating to your jaw, back, neck, or arms may signal a heart condition, especially if the origin is hard to pinpoint. For example, you might feel pain, but no specific muscle or joint aches. If the discomfort begins or worsens when you are exerting yourself, and then stops when you quit exercising, you should also get it checked out.
- Unexpected sweating: During menopause, many women experience hot flashes. However, sudden or excessive sweating associated with other symptoms such as nausea or chest pressure can also be a heart attack sign. Stress sweat when there is no real cause for stress, or sweating or shortness of breath accompanied by other symptoms, such as chest pain or fatigue, can be cause for concern.
- Chest pain: Chest pain/pressure is a very common heart attack sign, but can feel different than you might think. We need to dig deeper into the symptom of chest pain for both men and women as it relates to heart attacks, Dr. Cho says. It is seldom as dramatic as you might think, and it can feel like pressure or heart burn that comes on over time.
Don’t Miss: Can Bang Energy Drinks Cause Heart Attacks
Signs And Symptoms Of Heart Attack
If you have any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.
Women Face Longer Waits And Slower Diagnosis
In a study , researchers analyzed data on millions of emergency room visits before the pandemic and found that women and especially women of color who complained of chest pain had to wait an average of 11 minutes longer to see a doctor or nurse than men who complained of similar symptoms. Women were less likely to be admitted to the hospital, they received less thorough evaluations and they were less likely to be administered tests like an electrocardiogram, or EKG, which can detect cardiac problems.
Dr. Alexandra Lansky, a cardiologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital, recalled one patient who had gone to multiple doctors complaining of jaw pain, only to be referred to a dentist, who extracted two molars. When the jaw pain didnt go away, the woman went to see Dr. Lansky, who discovered the problem was heart related. She ended up having bypass surgery because the jaw pain was heart disease, said Dr. Lansky, who directs the Yale Cardiovascular Research Center.
Ultimately, 72 percent of women who had a heart attack waited more than 90 minutes to go to a hospital or call 911, compared to 54 percent of men. Slightly more than half of the women called a relative or a friend before dialing 911 or going to a hospital, compared to 36 percent of the men.
Recommended Reading: Congestive Heart Failure Pacemaker Life Expectancy
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.
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
Don’t Miss: What Does A High Heart Rate Mean
When Should You See Your Doctor
Its always better to err on the side of caution if something doesnt feel right. If you have noticed that you are shorter of breath with regular activity, you should go to your general doctor or your cardiologist, says Dr. Cho. It depends on the severity and the acuteness if it has started recently or not.
When you do visit, be sure to:
- Bring a list of your symptoms and when they are occurring.
- Let them know about any related family history of heart disease.
- Talk about stress or anything going on in your life that might contribute to a problem.
Your doctor likely will listen to your symptoms and check your pulse and blood pressure. They may order blood work, which will show whether your heart is damaged. They also may use an electrocardiogram to tell whether the electrical activity of your heart is normal, or an echocardiogram to view images of the heart to see if damage has occurred. Some patients may get stress tests, a coronary computed tomography angiogram or a cardiac catheterization.All of this is important in identifying any problems and taking steps to intervene before a possible heart attack.
Why Choose The Hospitals Of Providence For Your Early Heart Attack Care
The Hospitals of Providence has EHAC teams who genuinely care about you and your loved ones. Our hospitals are located across El Paso to provide accessible care to the communities in this city and nearby areas. At the same time, we have received multiple recognitions for the compassionate care and patient-centered cardiovascular services we offer.
Some of the accreditations and recognitions we received in recent years are as follows:
For Sierra Campus
- Chest Pain Reaccreditation by the Society of Cardiovascular Care
- ACC HeartCARE Center Designation by the American College of Cardiology
- Grade A rating for patient safety in the Leapfrog Groups Fall 2019 Safety Score
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.
What Can I Do To Recover After A Heart Attack
Take our quiz to see how much you know about cardiac rehabilitation.
If youve had a heart attack, your heart may be damaged. This could affect your hearts rhythm and its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. You may also be at risk for another heart attack or conditions such as stroke, kidney disorders, and peripheral arterial disease .
You can lower your chances of having future health problems following a heart attack with these steps:
- Physical activityTalk with your health care team about the things you do each day in your life and work. Your doctor may want you to limit work, travel, or sexual activity for some time after a heart attack.
- Lifestyle changesEating a healthier diet, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, and managing stressin addition to taking prescribed medicinescan help improve your heart health and quality of life. Ask your health care team about attending a program called cardiac rehabilitation to help you make these lifestyle changes.
- Cardiac rehabilitationCardiac rehabilitation is an important program for anyone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problem that required surgery or medical care. Cardiac rehab is a supervised program that includes
- Physical activity
- Education about healthy living, including healthy eating, taking medicine as prescribed, and ways to help you quit smoking
- Counseling to find ways to relieve stress and improve mental health
Recommended Reading: Womenâs Hospital Of Texas
Recommended Reading: Leaking Heart Valve Life Expectancy With Surgery
What Is A Heart Attack
Heart diseases are among the top causes of female deaths in the US.
But exactly what is a heart attack?
You already know we have a network of arteries and veins spread throughout the body. Arteries take blood from the heart to the organs and muscles while veins bring the blood back to the heart.
Similarly, your heart also has a mesh of arteries. The blood pumps through these vessels, keeping your heart alive and working.
But sometimes, the heart arteries become blocked and unable to allow proper blood flow. This may happen because of fat deposits, plaque development, or a blood clot in the blood vessels.
Naturally, the blood circulation within the heart muscles stops, killing the tissue. This leads to a heart attack or myocardial infarction .
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.
Read Also: Signs Of Right Sided Heart Failure
Risk Factors For Heart Attack In Women
In addition to knowing key heart attack symptoms, its also important to know if you have risk factors for heart disease. Many women arent aware that theyre at risk for heart attack, explains Dr. Lee. So when they start having symptoms, they dont even consider that its a warning sign.
Common risk factors for women include:
- Certain medical conditions. Women are at higher risk for heart disease if they have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or an inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
- Pregnancy complications. Women who had pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, or preeclampsia are at higher risk for a heart attack later in life.
- Smoking. Research shows that smoking can increase the risk of heart attack for young people.3 And female smokers are 25% more likely to have heart disease than male smokers.3
- Lifestyle choices. Poor diet, overuse of alcohol, and physical inactivity all increase a womans risk for heart attack.
- Menopause. Lower levels of estrogen after menopause can increase the risk of heart attack for women.
Preventing Heart Disease In Women And Men
Women often focus on looking after partners, children or ageing parents, but its 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 youre 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
Also Check: Can Hormones Cause Heart Palpitations
Heart Attack Symptoms In Women
If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to a hospital right away.
The Four Silent Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
In addition to extreme fatigue, here are the most common symptoms of heart attacks in women, according to the American Heart Association, so you know what to look for. Note that you may not have all of them:
All of these signs are âsilent,â in the sense that they are easy to ignore especially if you dont want to believe youre having a heart attack. Another reason people think of them as silent signs of a heart attack is that individually, these symptoms could all be attributed to other conditions. The chest pain, in particular, may not be the dramatic, elephant-on-my-chest stereotypical male heart attack pain, says Lichtman.
And the sheer number of these ambiguous symptoms may be one of the reasons many women dont know theyre having a heart attack, according to Lichtmans research there are other things bothering them, so they blow off the chest pain or pressure symptom, says Lichtman.
Recommended Reading: How Long Heart Attack Pain Last
What Is Mild Heart Attack
In this type of heart attack, blood flow through one of the coronary arteries was partially blocked, limiting the supply of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. If you were told youve had a mild heart attack, it probably means your heart didnt suffer much damage and still pumps normally, Dr. Campbell says.
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.
Recommended Reading: Stroke And Heart Attack