Heart Attack Symptoms Are They Different For Men And Women
Three minute read
Every year, more than one million people in the U.S. suffer from a heart attack. This means every 40 seconds someone in the US experiences congestive heart failure. Although heart disease death rates have fallen steadily for men, the rates for women have decreased only slightly.
Why is there such a discrepancy between men and women? A lot of it has to do with the variances in symptoms of heart attacks for each gender.
Difference in heart attack symptoms for men and women
Chest tightening, sweating and pain in the shoulder and arm are the most well-known symptoms of a heart attack. For years, many believed these were the only symptoms to look out for, but as we learn more about cardiovascular disease, we find that there are significant differences in how men and women experience a heart attack.
Warning signs in men
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men. In fact, 1 in every 4 males die from a heart attack. Men also experience heart attacks earlier in life compared to women. Men exhibit the following symptoms during a heart attack:
- Chest pain/tightening that feels like an elephant sitting on your chest. Also, a squeezing sensation that comes and goes or remains constant
- Upper body pain in the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Rapid heartbeats
Women are less likely to seek treatment
What to do if you think youre having a heart attack
Schedule regular check-ups
What’s The Difference Between Indigestion And A Heart Attack
Indigestion, or heartburn, is a feeling that usually comes on after eating. It causes a burning and uncomfortable sensation in your chest and abdomen, and often a sour taste in your mouth.If you havent experienced heartburn or indigestion before and you’re experiencing persistent burning chest pain or chest pain combined with other heart attack symptoms, phone 999 immediately.If youre prone to heartburn or indigestion and youre experiencing the same symptoms as usual, take the steps you usually would to ease your discomfort, such as taking some medicine and/or drinking water.If the burning feeling in your chests persists, or it begins to spread to your arms, neck or jaw, phone 999 immediately as you may be having a heart attack.
How To Recognise A Heart Attack
As well as the common symptoms, signs of a heart attack can include a sudden feeling of anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack and excessive coughing or wheezing due to a build-up of fluid in the lungs.
Pain levels can also vary. Pain or tightness in the chest can be severe, but it can also just feel uncomfortable. Symptoms of a heart attack may occur suddenly or they can last for days.
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How Are Heart Attacks Diagnosed
Healthcare providers usually diagnose heart attacks in an emergency room setting. Anyone with heart attack symptoms should undergo a physical examination, including checking pulse, blood oxygen levels and blood pressure and listening to heart and lung sounds.
A healthcare provider will diagnose a heart attack using the following:
- History and symptoms: The provider will ask you about the symptoms you experienced. They might also ask someone who was with you to describe what happened.
- Blood tests: During a heart attack, the damage to heart muscle cells almost always causes a chemical marker, a cardiac troponin, to appear in your bloodstream. Blood tests that look for that marker are among the most reliable methods to diagnose a heart attack.
- Electrocardiogram : This is one of the first tests you get when you come to an ER with heart attack symptoms.
- Echocardiogram: Using ultrasound , an echocardiogram generates a picture of the inside and outside of your heart.
- Angiogram: This test shows areas with little or no blood flow.
- Heart computed tomography scan: This creates a highly detailed scan of your heart.
- Heart MRI: This test uses a powerful magnetic field and computer processing to create an image of your heart.
- Nuclear heart scans: Similar to angiography, these scans use a radioactive dye injected into your blood. What sets them apart from an angiogram is that they use computer-enhanced methods like computed tomography or positron emission tomography scans.
Preventing Heart Attacks By Understanding Cardiovascular Risks
Do you know that heart attacks have “beginnings” that can occur days or weeks before an actual attack? It is important to recognize these beginnings, with the help of an EHAC doctor, to help prevent the actual attack and its potential health consequences. People often mistake the early warning signs of a heart attack, such as chest pain, for heartburn or pulled a muscle. The unfortunate outcome is that many people wait too long before getting help.
At The Hospitals of Providence, we have an EHAC program delivered by a team of cardiologists, nurses and staff who are dedicated to helping men and women recognize the early warning signs of a heart attack. We provide care and treatment options for these signs and help prevent the emergency from happening.
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You Had A Heart Attack Now What
Its no surprise that many people feel scared, confused and overwhelmed after a heart attack. A heart attack represents a life-changing event.
After your treatment for heart attack, you likely received instructions and a lot of information from your doctor. With time to reflect, you may be trying to understand what happened. Youre sure to want to know what you can do to avoid heart problems in the future.
Navigating the road to recovery isnt easy. Questions, confusion, uncertainty and even fear are common. Get answers to your questions and learn more about what to expect.
Factors To Consider Before Sheltering In Place
Sometimes, the safest thing to do in the event of an impending natural disaster is to evacuate. However, many people shelter in place anyway, whether it be because they dont have access to resources that enable them to leave, or because they would simply rather stay home and tough it out. Here, Dr. Morgan lists two important things everyone should consider when remaining in the path of severe weather especially if you suffer from a medical condition.
The aftermath. Its not a matter of whether or not youre able to survive the event. But often, the fallout from a natural disaster could go on for weeks, and thats the part that people are unprepared for, Dr Morgan says. there may be no access to drugstores, prescriptions, physicians, hospitals, roads, that type of thing and then if you have a serious medical condition, like heart failure, poorly controlled high blood pressure, or a past heart attack, you may be at risk. It may become very difficult and challenging for you to survive in those circumstances, even if you survive the main event.
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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. “Two-thirds of women will have less-typical, non-Hollywood heart attack symptoms,” says C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s 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.
What Do These Early Symptoms Typically Look Like
Dr. Xu says the majority of patients experience somewhat typical symptoms, such as radiating chest pain, heaviness or discomfort, heart palpitations, cold sweats, and shortness of breath. Others — women more so than men — will experience some atypical symptoms as well, which may include fatigue, a general sense of unease, vague discomfort, back or abdominal pain and declining stamina. Both types of symptoms can be experienced months before an actual heart attack occurs.
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How To Get Checked Out
Men may not be aware they had an SMI until weeks or even months later when they see their doctor for a regular visit, or because of persistent symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, or heartburn.
SMI is usually detected from an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram, which can highlight heart muscle damage. Another method is a blood test for the molecular footprints of troponin T, a protein released by injured heart cells. That test is often used in emergency departments for patients with heart attack symptoms.
Once an SMI is diagnosed, your doctor can identify your main risk factors and help design a treatment strategy, including changing your diet, exercising regularly, and taking a statin as well as other medication to help prevent a second heart attack .
“If you do notice any symptoms of a SMI, do not brush them aside, even if you do not think they are serious,” says Dr. Plutzky. “Playing it safe is always a better move than risking the potential harmful downside.”
Sharing Mayo Clinic: Heart Health For Myself And My Family
Sandra Driggers is a nurse at Mayo Clinic in Florida who works in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. This is her heart health story.
I struggled with my weight for most of my life. I never really gave a lot of thought to being healthy , or about how my weight and lifestyle played a role in my future health.But a little over 16 years ago, I had a heart attack.
Back then, at age 39, I never once thought about my risk for heart disease or a heart attack. I always thought heart issues were an older persons issue, and more of a mans concern. Definitely not a problem for a woman, especially not a young mom like myself.
It was 2005, and my sons were 6 and 12 at the time. Days were busy because I homeschooled them, did housework and generally, tried to do everything for everyone. Eventually, I started to notice I was having pain in my left arm anytime I would get stressed or exert myself in any way.
I kept telling myself that I had pulled a muscle. In the back of my mind, though, I was scared of the possibility that it could be something else. I wondered if it could be my heart. But, again, I was a young woman, so I convinced myself that those things do not happen to us.
Even as I would sit in my bathroom with an automated blood pressure cuff taking my pressure over and over again, watching it go higher, I’d tell myself that I was much too young for anything to happen to me.
For over a decade, I maintained. But old habits are hard to break.
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When Should I See A Doctor
Its important not to ignore symptoms and wait until they become severe. If you have a concern, talk to your doctor. If heart disease is caught early, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of further problems: eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, get regular exercise , maintain a healthy weight, drink alcohol in moderation , and dont smoke.
Symptoms Of Heart Arrhythmias
Heart arrhythmias occur when the heart beats irregularly, or too quickly or slowly. Some symptoms to look for include:
- fainting or dizziness
- a sensation of the heart racing, or beating too slowly or irregularly
- discomfort or pressure in the chest that can last for up to 30 minutes
- difficulty catching the breath after moderate exercise such as walking up stairs
- unexplained pain in the jaw, neck, or torso
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Heart Attack In Women Over 50
After menopause, which generally occurs around age 50, your risk of heart attack increases. During this period of life, your levels of the hormone estrogen drop. Estrogen is believed to help protect the health of your heart, which could explain why the average age of first heart attack is roughly 5 years older in women than in men.
There are additional symptoms of a heart attack that women over the age of 50 may experience. These symptoms include:
- severe chest pain
A silent heart attack is like any other heart attack, except it occurs without the usual symptoms. In other words, you may not even realize youve experienced a heart attack.
The American Heart Association estimates that as many as 170,000 Americans experience heart attacks each year without even knowing it. Though less symptomatic than a full heart attack, these events cause heart damage and increase the risk of future attacks.
Silent heart attacks are more common among people with diabetes and in those whove had previous heart attacks.
Symptoms that may indicate a silent heart attack include:
- mild discomfort in your chest, arms, or jaw that goes away after resting
- shortness of breath and tiring easily
- sleep disturbances and increased fatigue
- abdominal pain or heartburn
- skin clamminess
How Is Heart Disease Treated
The treatment for heart disease depends on which kind of condition you have. The three main options are often lifestyle changes, medicine or procedures. With heart disease, making changes to your lifestyle may be your best treatment. You have the power to form healthy habits that can help keep that heart of yours in good shape.9
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Heart Attack Symptoms In Men Vs Women
All heart attacks are not created equally, and that is especially true when it comes to the difference in symptoms between men and women. Knowing how to identify heart attack symptoms is critical to getting treatment quicker and saving valuable heart muscle. Dr. Tara Jarreau of Louisiana Cardiology Associates offers the following advice on recognizing heart attack symptoms.
Studies have shown there is a distinct disparity between men and women when it comes to the heart. For example, women have smaller hearts and smaller arteries than men do. This could be why the symptoms of a heart attack are different for women than men.
Common symptoms of a heart attack for both men and women include:
- Chest pain. For men, it can feel like uncomfortable pressure or squeezing of the chest. For women, the pain could be radiating or non-radiating. Research shows that almost half of women said they did not experience chest pain at anytime during a heart attack.
- Jaw or shoulder pain
- Weakness and shortness of breath
Unique symptoms for women include:
- Fatigue, often the first and most unrecognized symptom
- Back pain between the shoulder blades
- Unique symptoms for men include:
- Pain in one or both arms
- Back or stomach pain
- Abdominal discomfort that may feel like indigestion
Tips for Prevention
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
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Mens Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
As the leading cause of death in the United States, heart attacks are a serious condition that must be monitored and prevented. Men are just as likely as women to suffer heart attacks. However, the symptoms they experience are slightly different from those experienced by women.
If you think you might be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
Typical heart attack symptoms in men are:
- Shortness of Breath
Can You Recognize A Heart Attack Or Stroke
What To Do When Every Moment Counts
How would you react to a medical emergency? When it comes to life-threatening conditions like heart attack or stroke, every minute counts. Get to know the signs and symptoms of these health threats. If you think you or someone else might be having a heart attack or stroke, get medical help right away. Acting fast could save your life or someone elses.
Heart disease and stroke are 2 of the top killers among both women and men in the U.S. Nationwide, someone dies from a heart attack about every 90 seconds, and stroke kills someone about every 4 minutes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quick medical help could prevent many of these deaths. Fast action can also limit permanent damage to the body.
Heart attack and stroke are caused by interruptions to the normal flow of blood to the heart or brain2 organs that are essential to life. Without access to oxygen-rich blood and nutrients, heart or brain cells begin to malfunction and die. This cell death can set off a series of harmful effects throughout the body. The changes ultimately lead to the familiar symptoms of a heart or brain emergency.
You might know the most common symptoms of heart attack: sustained, crushing chest pain and difficulty breathing. A heart attack might also cause cold sweats, a racing heart, pain down the left arm, jaw stiffness, or shoulder pain.