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 Women Need To Know About Subtle Heart Attack Symptoms
Heart disease is the cause of about one in every three deaths in the United States. Its the leading cause of death for men and women, yet its a common misconception that men are at greater risk for heart problems than women.
Many people assume that only older individuals, particular older men, are at risk for heart attack. But if your heart health is compromised, a heart attack can happen at any age and to either sex.
The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain for both women and men. But women are more likely to suffer a heart attack with more subtle symptoms, which makes recognizing a heart attack more difficult unless you know what to look for.
At NJ Cardiovascular Institute, our team is here to help you understand the most common signs of heart attacks in women. We regularly diagnose and treat heart disease to help women of all ages live longer, healthier lives.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Attacks In Women
Until recently, research on heart attacks focused mainly on men. However, studies now show that some of the symptoms of heart attacks in women are different from those in men.
Too often, the signs of heart attacks go unnoticed in women . They may think that other health problems or drug side effects are causing their symptoms or that the symptoms will go away on their own. As a result, women dont always get the health care they need to prevent complications or death from a heart attack.
Chest pain is the most common symptom in both sexes, but women may also experience these other symptoms:
- unusual fatigue that gets worse with activity
- difficulty breathing
- heartburn that is unrelieved by antacids
- nausea and/or vomiting that is unrelieved by antacids
- tightening and pain in the chest that may extend into the neck, jaws and shoulders
- general feeling of weakness
Some women may have few of these symptoms, while others may have all of them at the same time. Symptoms may suddenly appear and then disappear. Also, women often report symptoms up to one month before the heart attack. If a woman has any of these symptoms and thinks she may be having a heart attack, she should immediately call emergency or go to the nearest emergency medical centre.
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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.
What Can I Expect If I Have This Condition
After youve had a heart attack, youre at a higher risk of a similar occurrence. Your healthcare provider will likely recommend follow-up monitoring, testing and care to avoid future heart attacks. Some of these include:
- Heart scans: Similar to the methods used to diagnose a heart attack, these can assess the effects of your heart attack and determine if you have permanent heart damage. They can also look for signs of heart and circulatory problems that increase the chance of future heart attacks.
- Stress test: Your provider may also recommend that you undergo a stress test. These are heart tests and scans that take place while youre exercising. Stress tests can show potential problems that stand out only when your heart is working harder.
- Cardiac rehabilitation: Your healthcare provider may recommend that you go through a cardiac rehabilitation program during your recovery from a heart attack. These programs are medically supervised and focus on helping you improve your overall health and lifestyle, which can prevent another heart attack. Cardiac rehabilitation generally involves a team of providers and experts, including doctors, physical therapists, nurses, exercise specialists/trainers, dietitians, health educators, counselors and more.
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Heart Attack Symptoms In Women
If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to a hospital right away.
Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection
SCAD is a tear on the wall of a coronary artery , which supplies blood to your heart. It can cause angina, heart attack and cardiac arrest.
Symptoms can include:
- a feeling of heaviness or tightness in your chest this may spread to your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
- shortness of of breath
- light headedness
Many people with SCAD will have few or no risk factors for heart disease. It’s not yet known what causes it, and it’s not thought to be preventable.
Read further information about SCAD
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Heart Attack Warning Signs For Women
Every woman should recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack to know when to call for emergency medical assistance. While the classic signs of a heart attack include central chest pain or pressure that radiates to the left arm and jaw, in women, the signs are often less obvious.
Top symptoms during a heart attack for women:
shortness of breath
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Who Is Most At Risk For A Heart Attack
Several key factors affect your risk of having a heart attack. Unfortunately, some of these risk factors arent things you can control.
- If you have certain health conditions or diseases.
Age and sex
Your risk of heart attack increases as you get older, and your sex also influences when your risk of a heart attack starts to increase:
- Men: The risk of heart attack increases greatly at age 45.
- Women: The risk of heart attack increases greatly at age 50 or after menopause.
If you have a parent or sibling with a history of heart disease or heart attack especially at a younger age your risk is even greater. That risk increases with the following:
- Your father or a brother who was diagnosed with heart disease at age 55 or younger.
- Your mother or a sister who was diagnosed with heart disease at age 65 or younger.
The lifestyle choices you make can also affect your risk of having a heart attack. The following lifestyle factors increase your risk of heart attack:
- Lack of physical activity.
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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.
What Should You Do If You Have Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
- . One Swiss study found that women wait almost 40 minutes longer to call for help than men do, perhaps because they dont recognize the symptoms. Older research shows that calling an ambulance is usually quicker than driving yourself to the ER. Thats because if they know youre coming, the hospital can prep for you, and you get care along the way.
- Lead with chest pain or pressure when you get to the hospital and the doctor asks about your symptoms. Even if you have other symptoms, Put that out first rather than burying it, advises Lichtman.
- Dont play down what youre feeling. Be the squeaky wheel, says Dr. Watson. Dr. Lichtman has done research showing that younger women who need care for a heart attack often dont want to look alarmist. Dont feel bad or think that you dont want to disturb anyone this is our job to save your life, Dr. Watson says.
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Significant Signs Of Heart Attack In Women
A heart attack is a major cardiovascular disorder, that happens slowly over time. The deteriorating conditions of the heart that when untreated, may lead to a heart attack. Besides being painful and expensive to treat, heart attacks can be lethal too.
The literature says that the prevalence of Heart attack has increased in midlife women, which declined in similarly aged men. However, they can manifest in much worse situations in women than in men, according to the Indian Heart Association .
It is a common misconception that women are off the hook when it comes to heart attacks. It is also believed that only older women should worry about heart attacks. However, we have statistics to prove that women have a higher mortality rate from heart attacks.
Diseases of the circulatory system, which include heart failures, were the prime cause of death in India, according to a study released by the census department in 2013. Almost 29% of all deaths were caused by diseases of the circulatory system. While 28.5% of deaths among men were attributed to this group of diseases, 29.8% of all deaths among women were because of this group.
Experts believe that women tend to ignore or not notice the symptoms because heart attacks manifest differently for men and women. Women are also at a higher risk of a second heart attack. Therefore it becomes important to understand how heart diseases occur in women, the risk factors involved, and heart attack symptoms in women that should not be ignored.
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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Lets Win This Together
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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 Womenâs 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.
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 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.
News Anchors Stroke On Live Tv Raises Awareness Of Womens Risk At Any Age
NCIS star Pauley Perrette also suffered a stroke, raising warnings about womens risk.
TULSA, Okla. An Oklahoma news anchor and a TV actress are raising awareness about womens stroke risk at any age by sharing their own experiences.
Im sorry, Chin said, interrupting the broadcast to throw it to the stations meteorologist. Something is going on with me this morning and I apologize to everybody.
Chin later , writing that her doctors believe she suffered the beginnings of a stroke while on the air.
The episode seemed to have come out of nowhere. I felt great before our show. However, over the course of several minutes during our newscast, things started to happen, she wrote. First, I lost partial vision in one eye. A little bit later my hand and arm went numb. Then, I knew I was in big trouble when my mouth would not speak the words that were right in front of me on the teleprompter. If you were watching Saturday morning, you know how desperately I tried to steer the show forward, but the words just wouldnt come.
Chin wrote that her coworkers called 911, and she was hospitalized for several days while undergoing multiple medical tests.
NCIS star Pauley Perrette also revealed recently that she nearly died from a massive stroke a year ago at the age of 52.
Perrette, now 53, took to Twitter on Sept. 2 to share an update on her recovery.
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What Causes Heart Attack
Youll agree when I say knowing the causes is more important than learning about the symptoms of heart blockage in women.
Heart attacks in females occur for many reasons.
For starters, we experience immense stress daily. It aint easy balancing personal life, career, home, and kids together!
But studies show that long-term stress is one of the biggest causes of heart attacks in women.
It will affect your eating habits, hormone levels, and blood pressure and raise the risk of coronary diseases.
Were also not paying attention to our diets.
Eating unhealthy junk foods will definitely show some symptoms of heart blockage in females later on. High cholesterol and hypertension are owed to consuming rich fatty foods.
And lets not forget the lack of physical activities. Another major cause of a sudden spike in heart conditions.
So all in all, leading a healthy lifestyle = reduced risk of silent signs of heart attack in women.