Heart Attacks in Women

Women are doing it all these days – the work/life balance isn’t easy. They are putting in extra hours at the office while managing an active home, kids schedules, meals, errands, relationships and daily life. There’s a lot of stress, a lot of dining out and not a lot of time to exercise. It’s no wonder that cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of American women – one out of three has cardiovascular disease. And, nearly HALF of African-American women have cardiovascular disease. Prevention, taking care of yourself, and recognizing the early warning signs and your risk factors are key. Sadly 27% of people fail to understand the symptoms of a heart attack and the urgency to seek medical attention. We urge you to know the signs – and in the case of a heart attack men and women are not created equal!


Signs of a heart attack in men

Heart disease in men and women looks different. For men, when a heart attack strikes, it is most often described as severe pressure or squeezing in the center of left side of the chest. Other common signs of a heart attack include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea and fatigue.


Signs of a heart attack in women

The most common symptom of a heart attack in women is also chest pain. However, for many women, chest pain may not occur, or the signs and symptoms don’t occur all at once, but over time, even a month before a heart attack happens. According to the American Heart Association, here are the signs of a heart attack in women:

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Again, women tend to discount some of these symptoms, especially if they occur separately, brushing them off as symptoms of the flu or menopause. When women are sick, they tend to ignore it,” said Jennifer Mieres, M.D., a cardiologist and professor of cardiology and population health at the Northshore LIJ Health System in New York. “We need to put the fact that we’re vulnerable to heart disease on our radar screen and recognize the signs.” Chest pain combined with any of the symptoms above should be an immediate call to 9-1-1.

Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable.”

Heart attacks can be prevented. Know your risks. See your doctor. Get lab work done and know your numbers and watch them year after year for any negative trends. If you are smoking – quit. Quitting smoking alone cuts your risk of coronary heart disease by 50%! Make real changes to your diet. Buy leaner cuts of meat. Watch your intake of saturated fats. And of course, exercise! You don’t have to train for a marathon or do CrossFit. Walking just 30 minutes a day can lower your risk of a heart attack. By knowing your risk factors, modifying your diet and logging in some steps, you can lower your risk factors. Consult your doctor before you start any new diet or exercise program. Here’s to a healthy heart and a healthy YOU!


Sources: health.clevelandclinic.org, heart.org