Heart disease is one of the top leading causes of death in women; one in four American women die from heart disease. Unfortunately, even with knowing the statistics, it’s common for women to wait significantly longer than men before seeking emergency care for a heart attack, and oftentimes their symptoms are misdiagnosed when they arrive at the hospital. A common reason why many women put off seeking emergency treatment for a possible heart attack is that their symptoms tend to be different from the signs that people often associate with someone having a heart attack, such as the tightening and clenching of the chest. Although February is known for Valentine’s Day, it is also American Heart Health Month. Celebrating “Red Day” is important, but it’s also important to keep in mind that the health of your heart is important 12-months of the year, 365 days a year. To help you be more heart-healthy, here are the signs of a heart attack in women, and how you can reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack
The signs and symptoms of a heart attack experienced by women are much wider than the symptoms typically seen in men. Women may experience the “known” symptoms of a heart attack as men, including chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and/or chest pressure; however, women may also have symptoms that are disguised as symptoms of other issues, such as back or shoulder pain or nausea. In fact, oftentimes women having a heart attack experienced symptoms that are familiar to the flu, so they tend to push the signs aside by thinking it is only a virus that will clear itself up in a few days. If you have any of the following signs or symptoms, it is critical that you call 9-1-1 and seek medical attention immediately:
- Heavy ache, squeezing, fullness, or pressure in the center of your chest; this may last longer than a few minutes, or it may go away and come back
- Pain or discomfort in your upper body, such as one or both arms, upper stomach, jaw, or back
- Shortness of breath; this may occur with or without chest discomfort/pain
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Unusual or unexplained nausea and/or lightheadedness
- Extreme and unusual/unexplained tiredness or fatigue
Keep in mind that the symptoms of a heart attack may not come on suddenly; they may begin and worsen over several hours or even a day or two.
Reduce the Risk
Although you may not be able to prevent a heart attack, there are several things you can do to help reduce the risk. American Heart Month is a great way to remind women of their risk of a heart attack, but it is also important for women to start thinking about reducing the risk all year round. Some things you can do to reduce your risk of a heart attack may include:
- Schedule annual healthy-heart checkups, beginning at age 20
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Maintain a regular exercise routine
- Skip the extra salt
- Eat fish at least twice a week or take an omega-3 supplement
- Control your stress
- Reduce your risk of diabetes
Although the risk for women having a heart attack increases with age, it is important to keep in mind that women can have a heart attack at any age. If you are having any unusual pain, especially in your chest, between your shoulders, and/or symptoms of the flu, you should contact your doctor immediately and/or call 9-11.
If your senior loved one has had a heart attack, stroke or is experiencing other medical conditions and needs caregiving help, please contact 1st Meridian Care Services.