What Are The Signs Of A Heart Attack
While patients and physicians are always concerned about heart attack and other heart diseases, it is very difficult to diagnose these problems based on symptoms alone. Being aware of the variety of symptoms is an important part of preventing serious heart trouble. If you are concerned about the symptoms described below, contact your primary care physician or other healthcare provider.
Even though men and women may experience heart attacks differently, there are a few heart attack symptoms that are common amongst everyone:
Gender Diversity And Common Emergency Symptoms
People who identify as trans, non-binary or gender diverse may wonder which symptoms they should be on the lookout for in an emergency. You should always talk to your doctor about your specific situation and medical history to get their advice and an assessment of your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. As a general rule, if the symptom is unusual, severe, or long-lasting you should seek medical attention early. If you think you could be having a heart attack or stroke, call triple zero for an ambulance immediately, even if you dont think you have stereotypical symptoms.
How Do I Know If I Am At Risk For A Heart Attack
A heart attack can happen to anyone, woman or man, young or old. Some people are more at risk because of certain health problems, family health history, age, and habits. These are called risk factors.
You can’t change some risk factors, like your age, race or ethnicity, or family history. The good news is that you can change or control many risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and unhealthy eating.
Learn more about controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease.
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Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women
Both women and men who have a heart attack often have chest pain. However, in addition to chest pain, women are more likely to have these symptoms:
- Pain in the shoulder, back, or arm
- Shortness of breath
These symptoms can happen together with chest pain or without any chest pain.
Many women may not recognize that these are symptoms of a heart attack. Women may not get emergency treatment right away if they downplay their symptoms and delay going to the hospital, or if the usual initial screening tests performed at the hospital may not detect an early or atypical heart attack. Because of this, women have a higher risk of serious health problems after a heart attack.
It is important to if you have these symptoms. Early treatment can limit damage to your heart and can save your life.
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, 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 heart attack later in life.
- Smoking. Research shows that smoking can increase the risk of heart attack for young people by sevenfold.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.
Understanding your risk factors and knowing common heart attack symptoms are important first steps in taking care of your heart. Another way you can prevent heart disease is to take preventive steps to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.
1 Women and Heart Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov, accessed December 14, 2021.
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How To Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease
About 75% of heart disease cases in women can be prevented by making changes to your lifestyle.
Some ways to reduce your heart disease risk include:
- Eat healthy. Eat foods that are high in fiber. Choose foods that are low in cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats. Eat less salt and sugar.
- Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease.
- Limit alcohol. Women should have no more than one drink a day.
- Learn to cope with stress.
Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms Can Differ From Men’s
Heart attack symptoms in women can be a bit different from those in men. Women tend to ignore the symptoms because they can be quite subtle.
While chest pain is the most common sign of heart attack for both men and women, some women just have a feeling of tightness, pressure or discomfort in their chest. So, if youre a woman, how do you know if you are having a heart attack?
Why Should You Take Heart Attack Seriously
Im going to get pretty honest with you for a sec.
Coronary diseases are one of the leading causes of female deaths in the US. But despite the alarming numbers, only 56% of women in the country realize this.
For African American, Asian, & Hispanic women, heart attacks are as dangerous as cancers!
But sadly, theres a general lack of awareness in women about heart conditions.
And this is even bigger concern for women living in underdeveloped countries, like South Asian nations.
Needless to say, theres no better time than now to start prioritizing your heart health.
Arm yourself with facts and knowledge so you can fight the rising risk of cardiovascular diseses in women.
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.
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Heart Attack And Women
A heart attack happens when blood flow in an artery to the heart is blocked by a blood clot or plaque, and the heart muscle begins to die. Women are more likely than men to die after a heart attack. But if you get help quickly, treatment can save your life and prevent permanent damage to your heart.
Do Women Experience Different Heart Attack Symptoms
It is important to remember that everyone experiences different heart attack symptoms. The symptoms of a subsequent heart attack may be different from the first.
Women are more likely than men to experience heart attack symptoms without chest discomfort. If they do have tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest, this discomfort may not always be severe or even the most noticeable symptom.
Sometimes a person can have no heart attack symptoms at all. In these cases the heart attack isn’t diagnosed until it is picked up by a clinician at a later date. This is sometimes called a silent heart attack.
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Common Symptoms In Men
Another common symptom of heart attack in men is pain or discomfort in one or more of the following areas:
Risk factors for heart attack can apply to both women and men. These include factors like family history, diet, and lack of physical activity.
According to researchers in a , women ages 18 to 55 have a higher rate of certain medical conditions that may increase their risk of a heart attack.
Some of these conditions include:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- kidney failure
- mental health conditions
Certain risk factors that apply to both men and women may be experienced differently by women, such as:
- High blood pressure. High blood pressure may develop during pregnancy or as a side effect of birth control pills.
- High cholesterol. While estrogen can protect women against high cholesterol, levels of this hormone tend to drop after menopause.
- Smoking. Both men and women smoke, but its been reported that women are less likely to quit successfully.
Women also have a
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.
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Do The Signs Of Heart Attack Change With Age
After you hit menopause, your body goes through a variety of changes. The hormone imbalance, night sweats, hot flushes, mood irritability, and constant stress further raises the risk of heart diseases.
But most importantly, the silent signs of heart attack in women over 40 are slightly different from younger women.
For example, they are less likely to experience chest pain as a symptom of heart blockage. Instead, theyd experience:
- Heart palpitations
What Procedures Treat A Heart Attack
The most common procedures to treat a heart attack include:
- Angioplasty and stenting. Angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention, is a nonsurgical procedure that opens blocked or narrowed coronary arteries. A thin, flexible tube with a medical balloon on the end is threaded through a blood vessel to the narrowed or blocked coronary artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to open the artery to allow blood flow to the heart. The balloon is then deflated and removed. A small mesh tube called a stent may be permanently placed in the artery. The stent helps prevent new blockages in the artery.
- Coronary artery bypass grafting. The surgeon uses a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body to re-route blood around the blockage in your artery. You may need this surgery if more than one artery is blocked, or if angioplasty and stenting did not work to restore blood flow to the heart.
After a heart attack, you may also need cardiac rehabilitation to recover from the damage the heart attack did to your heart.
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.
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.
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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.
Can Women Reduce Their Risk Of Having A Heart Attack
As a woman, your hormones might give you some protection from CHD in your pre-menopause years. Post menopause, your risk rises and continues to rise as you get older. As you get older it is increasingly important to be aware of the risk factors that can affect your risk of developing CHD. The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk. Risk factors include:
- being overweight
- not doing enough physical activity.
Identifying and managing risk factors early on could help lower your risk of a heart attack in the future.
- Get tips and advice on healthy living.
We recommend that all women over the age of 40 visit their local GP or nurse for a health check to check their cardiovascular risk. If you’re aged 4074 and living in England, you can ask for an NHS health check. Similar schemes are also available in other parts of the UK.Your doctor should invite you to review your risk every five years, but you can also just make an appointment yourself to check your blood pressure and cholesterol. This check might help to highlight anything that could put you at increased risk of having a heart attack.
If you have a family history of heart or circulatory disease make sure you tell your doctor or nurse. You’re considered to have a family history of heart or circulatory disease if:
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Heart Attack In Women: Symptoms & Signs
- Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019
The classic symptoms of heart attack include a feeling of extreme pressure on the chest and chest pain, including a squeezing or full sensation. This can be accompanied by pain in one or both arms, jaw, back, stomach, or neck. Other symptoms of heart attack include shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, and a sweating feeling, often described as breaking out in a cold sweat. Although chest pain and pressure are the characteristic symptoms, women are somewhat more likely than men to experience heart attack that does not occur in this typical fashion. Instead, some women with heart attacks may experience more of the other symptoms, like lightheadedness, nausea, extreme fatigue, fainting, dizziness, or pressure in the upper back. Because of the absence of typical symptoms associated with heart attacks in men, many women who have heart attacks think the symptoms are due to another condition, like the flu or gastroesophageal reflux.
Causes of heart attack in women
Other heart attack in women symptoms and signs
- Breaking Out in a Cold Sweat
- Chest Fullness
Early Warning Signs Of Heart Attack In Women
A study of 515 women found that about 95% had symptoms more than one month before their heart attack. Some of these symptoms include:
Women are also more likely to have silent heart attacks, where there are no symptoms or very mild symptoms.
You may only learn that you had a silent heart attack days or weeks after it happened. A study of 708 heart attack cases showed that more than 25% of heart attacks were only discovered during routine medical check-ups.
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