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What Causes Heart Attacks In Women

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One Woman’s Heart Attack Story

How A Rare Condition Can Cause Heart Attacks In Healthy Young Women | TODAY

In 1991, I went to the ER with chest pains twice in one week. They said it was ulcers . Then the pain became very intense. Again, the ER said there was nothing they could do. I refused to leave and was admitted for observation. Later, the doctor on duty saw my EKG and asked, “Where’s the 34-year-old who had the massive heart attack?” I had emergency surgery. However, the damage was done, and only part of my heart muscle functions. I had to quit a job I loved, and my life is completely changed. They thought I was too young to have a heart attack.

Know Your Heart Care Options

You cant predict if a heart attack will happen. But knowing where you can get the right heart care is one thing you can do. Our nationally recognized cardiac centers include:

  • Regions Hospital Heart Center in St. Paul, MN, is consistently recognized as one of the nations top cardiac centers. Youll get the highest level of care in every situation, starting with emergency treatment all the way through the recovery process.
  • Park Nicollet Heart and Vascular Center, located in St. Louis Park, MN, is nationally recognized for offering outstanding, responsive care for heart attacks and other cardiac conditions. This center is accredited as a Mission: Lifeline® Heart Attack Receiving Center by the American Heart Association, so you can expect first-rate treatment, especially in time-sensitive situations.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation services are offered across the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin. Recovering from a heart attack takes time, but you dont have to go through it alone. We offer personalized cardiac rehabilitation at seven convenient locations, so its easy to get the support you and your heart need.

Symptoms Of Heart Disease

Women typically have symptoms of heart disease about 10 years later than men. For men, chest pain is a common symptom. In women, symptoms of a heart attack are more subtle and can include:

  • Pain or aching in the chest and upper arms or back
  • Unusually fast heartbeat
  • Family history of heart disease, especially at an early age
  • Being 55 years old or older
  • Menopause

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Causes Of Heart Disease In Women

Heart disease encompasses different heart and blood vessel conditions, such as coronary artery disease, vascular disease, high blood pressure, and heart failure. The most common cause of heart disease is atherosclerosis. It is caused by plaque buildup, a collection of cholesterol and fatty deposits, on the walls of the arteries. Over time, atherosclerosis restricts blood flow to the heart.

As blood flow becomes more restricted, the heart lacks oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. This condition is called ischemia, and the heart becomes less effective. Ischemia causes some of the symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain, or angina.

A Heart Attack Is Harder On A Woman Than A Man

Important! Heart Attack Symptoms in Women Infographic

Women dont tend to do as well as men after a heart attack. They often require a longer hospital stay, and they are more likely to die before leaving the hospital.

This may be due to the fact that women who suffer a heart attack have more untreated risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Sometimes, its because they put their families first and dont take care of themselves.

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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.

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.”

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Heart Attack Warning Signs And Symptoms: Digestive Problems


Nausea or feeling sick on your stomach is a less common but possible symptom of a heart attack. Sometimes belching or burping can accompany nausea, and some patients have described a feeling like indigestion associated with a heart attack. Women are more likely than men to report these less typical symptoms of heart attack, and some patients have described feeling as though they are developing the flu.


What Are The Treatment Options For Cardiovascular Disease In Women

Heart attack symptoms in women video

Depending on the type of heart disease a woman has, her treatment options can vary. Here are some common recommendations:

Lifestyle changes: Following a healthy diet, starting a regular exercise routine, and quitting smoking can improve heart symptoms while also helping to prevent future problems.

People who have or are at risk for heart disease should limit how much salt, fat and added sugar they eat. They should also avoid drinking too much alcohol. For women, small amounts of alcohol may help keep the heart healthy, but more than one drink a day, on average, seems to have the opposite effect.

Medications: If a woman has high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, medications can be prescribed to lower them and reduce her risk for further complications. A woman with or at risk for dangerous blood clots may also be prescribed daily blood thinning medications.

Interventional or surgical procedures: If a patient has a blockage in her arteries, she may need to have a medical procedure to repair the problem. For example, invasive cardiologists can use tools to open up blocked arteries. Surgeons can construct bypass routes for the blood to flow around the blockages.

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Heart Attack Symptoms In Women Over 50

Symptoms of heart attack in women are atypical, and hence, identifying them is difficult. However, here is a list of possible symptoms that can be observed in women suffering from heart attack.

Symptoms of heart attack in women are atypical, and hence, identifying them is difficult. However, here is a list of possible symptoms that can be observed in women suffering from heart attack.

Heart diseases are the major causes of mortality in men and women over 50 years of age. Men and women are at an equal risk of suffering from heart attack. It is essential to be aware of its identifying signs and symptoms, in order to get the condition diagnosed and treated quickly.

Heart Attack in WomenIt should be noted that the symptoms of heart attack vary according to gender. We all are aware of its classic symptoms like chest pain and breathlessness. The following classic symptoms can be observed in women, when suffering from heart attack.

Common Symptoms

Peculiarly, chest pain, as a symptom of heart disease, may not always be experienced by women. The following are the other signs of heart attack in women over 50 years of age. These symptoms accompany the aforementioned ones.

Other Notable Symptoms

  • Cough
  • Chills

Now, it may seem difficult to relate these symptoms to heart attack and look for immediate treatment. But, women should note that any of the aforementioned symptoms, if observed for unexplained reasons, should be bought to the doctors notice immediately.

Sometimes My Heart Beats Really Fast And Other Times It Feels Like My Heart Skips A Beat Am I Having A Heart Attack

Most people have changes in their heartbeat from time to time. These changes in heartbeat are, for most people, harmless. As you get older, you’re more likely to have heartbeats that feel different. Don’t panic if you have a few flutters or if your heart races once in a while. If you have flutters and other symptoms such as dizziness or shortness of breath , call 911.

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High Protein Diet Linked With Heart Failure Risk In Women Over 60

A 2016 study found a link between a high protein diet and a higher risk of heart failure among women over 60. The researchers reviewed self-reported data on diets of 103,878 women. Of the group, 1,711 women developed heart failure. There was a higher risk of heart failure among women who had a greater dietary intake of protein compared to those who consumed the least amount of protein.

Study author Mohamad Firas Barbour explained, Higher calibrated total dietary protein intake appears to be associated with substantially increased heart failure risk while vegetable protein intake appears to be protective, although additional studies are needed to further explore this potential association.

While a better understanding of dietary risk is still needed, it appears that heart failure among postmenopausal women is not only highly prevalent but preventable by modifying diet. Heart failure is highly prevalent, especially in post-menopausal women therefore, a better understanding of nutrition-related factors associated with heart failure is needed, Barbour concluded.

Women Dont Always Get The Proper Medications After A Heart Attack

Heart Attack Signs in Women: A Handy Guide to Symptoms

After a heart attack, women are at greater risk of developing a blood clot that can cause another heart attack. For unknown reasons, they are not as likely to be given a drug to prevent such blood clots. This could explain why women are more likely than men to have a second heart attack within 12 months.

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How Scad Causes A Heart Attack

First the basics: A heart attack occurs when one or more of the coronary arteriesblood vessels that have the all-important task of delivering oxygen to the heartbecome blocked, according to the National Institute on Aging. This causes the part of the heart that doesnt have enough oxygen to start to die.

In most cases that blood vessel blockage happens because of a disease called atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque in your arteries that eventually hardens and constricts blood flow, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains. But other times it occurs because of SCAD.

SCAD happens when a tear in an artery wall leads the inner layers of that wall to fill with blood and swell, according to the Mayo Clinic. This swelling compresses the lumen until adequate levels of blood can no longer stream through. That lack of blood flow can lead to a medical emergency like a heart attack.

Experts know SCAD is rare, but they arent sure exactly how often it happens. It has historically been underdiagnosed, mainly because heart attacks aren’t often suspected in younger, healthy women. Providers may also be less familiar with it as a cause of heart attack. In the general population, SCAD is estimated to cause just 1 to 4 percent of all incidents of acute coronary syndrome , according to a 2018 scientific statement on SCAD from the American Heart Association . But its impact on women is shockingly disproportionate.

The Symptoms Of Heart Attack Can Be Different In Women

Men often describe their chest pain during a heart attack as a crushing weight on the chest. Some women also experience chest pain, but they are more likely to have different, subtler symptoms for three or four weeks before a heart attack. Red flags include:

  • New or dramatic fatigue. For example, a simple activity like making the bed makes you feel unusually tired. You arent exerting yourself, but you feel deeply fatigued or have a heavy chest. You may feel very tired, but cant sleep well. Or you are suddenly worn out after your normal exercise routine.
  • Shortness of breath or sweating. Watch for this especially when either symptom occurs without exertion and when either symptom is accompanied by a symptom such a chest pain or fatigue. Look for either symptom worsening over time after exertion. Other signs are shortness of breath that worsens when lying down and is relieved when you sit up and a cold, clammy feeling that occurs without cause.
  • Pain in the neck, back or jaw. This is especially of note when there is no specific muscle or joint that aches or when the discomfort worsens when you are exerting yourself and stops when you stop. While men usually experience pain in the left arm, women can experience this pain can be in either arm. Also, watch for pain that starts in the chest and spreads to the back, pain that occurs suddenly and may wake you up at night and pain in the lower left side of the jaw.

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When Do I Do If Someone Else Has A Heart Attack

An easy-to-use device called an AED is available in many public places and can be used by almost anyone to treat cardiac arrest. This device works by shocking the heart back into a normal rhythm.

Hereâs how to use an AED:

1. Check responsiveness

  • For an adult or older child, shout and shake the person to confirm whether theyâre unconscious. Do not use AED on a conscious person.
  • For an infant or young child, pinch their skin. Never shake a young child.
  • Check breathing and pulse. If absent or uneven, prepare to use the AED as soon as possible.

2. Prepare to use AED

  • Make sure the person is in a dry area and away from puddles or water.
  • Check for body piercings or outline of an implanted medical device, such as a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator.
  • AED pads must be placed at least 1 inch away from piercings or implanted devices.

3. Use AED

For newborns, infants, and children up to age 8, use a pediatric AED, if possible. If not, use an adult AED.

  • Turn on the AED.
  • Plug in connector, if necessary.
  • Make sure no one is touching the person.
  • Push the âAnalyzeâ button.
  • If a shock is advised, check again to make sure no one is touching the person.
  • Push the âShockâ button.
  • Start or resume continue compressions.
  • Follow AED prompts.

4. Continue CPR

When To See A Doctor

What to know about SCAD, a leading cause of heart attacks for young women

Its never too early to see a doctor to discuss your risk for heart disease. In fact, the new primary prevention guidelines say that the earlier the risk factors for heart disease are prevented or treated, the less likely you are to develop heart disease later in life.

So, if youre concerned about your risk for heart disease, make an appointment to discuss how you can prevent this highly preventable condition. You can connect to a cardiologist in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

If youre having any symptoms at all, its very important to discuss these with your doctor as heart disease can masquerade in many different ways.

Its easy to dismiss many warning signs of heart disease like fatigue, indigestion, and shortness of breath as just a normal part of life or mild illness. But because a heart attack can happen suddenly, its important not to ignore any potential warning signs.

If you have any of the above symptoms of heart disease, especially if you also have risk factors, see a doctor.

Medical Emergency

  • other specialized lipid tests

Other tests include:

A doctor might also suggest a continuous EKG or ambulatory arrhythmia monitor, where you wear a device that constantly records your hearts electrical signals. Depending on your symptoms, you might wear this device for a few days or a few weeks.

If these tests are inconclusive, you may need more invasive tests to diagnose heart disease. These include:

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How Stress And Mental Health Play A Role In Scad

SCAD patients commonly report having mental health conditions like chronic stress, depression, and anxiety, and notably at higher rates than other heart attack patients. On the flip side, having SCAD can bring about or exacerbate these conditions in the recovery period.

A more sudden type of stress could also trigger SCAD. Intense stress can cause an adrenaline surge that increases blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to an arterial tear, Malissa J. Wood, M.D., codirector of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program, director of the SCAD program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, tells SELF.

Its a well-known fact that women have higher rates of many mental health conditions than men do. According to numbers cited by the National Institute of Mental Health , 23.4 percent of women reported having any type of anxiety disorder in the past year compared with 14.3 percent of men. When it comes to depression, 8.7 percent of women reported at least one major depressive episode in the past year as opposed to 5.3 percent of men, the NIMH says. These health conditions can contribute to stress and vice versa.

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