Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in every four female deaths is caused by heart disease.
The heart attack, known to doctors as the myocardial infarction, or MI, was once mainly thought of as a man’s condition, but that misconception is starting to clear up. Women are just as likely to have heart disease as men.
The symptoms of a heart attack may not be crystal clear. If you cut your hand, chances are you could close your eyes and describe exactly where the cut is, which finger and maybe even whether it was just a scrape or something more. Unfortunately, symptoms of a heart attack aren’t always so straightforward. While plenty of people’s symptoms include the classic “elephant-standing-on-your-chest” pain as seen on TV, it’s also true that many do not. Understanding all of the symptoms of a heart attack is extremely important.
If you are a woman, recognizing a heart attack may have its own set of hurdles and obstacles. A recent study in women who were hospitalized for a heart attack found that they tended to be slightly less likely to have reported chest pain/discomfort than men. Instead, they may report what doctors call vague or less-typical symptoms, including the following:
It’s also important to keep in mind that doctors cannot necessarily tell from your symptoms, alone, whether or not there is a cardiac problem. They work based on the level of suspicion, folding in the results from further tests and evaluation. That’s why knowing your risk factors and having a healthy (but not to the point of obsessing) suspicion that it could happen to you is so important.
In considering the list of heart attack symptoms, consider the following:
In men and women alike, the importance of awareness, recognition and prompt action cannot be overemphasized. If you are a woman, first know that a heart attack could happen to you, and then make the appropriate diet and lifestyle changes to minimize your risk.
Doctors who deal with heart attacks have a saying that “time is myocardium,” meaning that if you recognize a heart attack early and take immediate action, you can minimize the loss of heart muscle, improving your odds of survival and of doing better in life after surviving a heart attack.