Women’s and men’s bodies are different in many ways that we recognize daily. Our bodies allow us to become mothers and to breast-feed an infant. Women live longer lives than men due to both biological and social differences. Even in the words we speak, gender differences are obvious, and for a woman that’s an extra 13,000 more words per day than a man. It comes as no surprise that different diseases affect women in different ways and at different rates compared to men. Heart disease is the leading cause of death amongst both sexes, but the signs of a heart attack can be much more subtle or even silent in a woman. While men most often experience “classic” crushing chest pain, women can experience more vague symptoms or symptoms other than chest pain.
Watch Elizabeth Banks’ comedic yet accurate depiction of a woman juggling it all…including a heat attack in “Just A Little Heart Attack.”
Knowing the signs of a heart attack in a woman can save lives. All women should be aware of warning signs as a heart attack can strike at any age. An estimated 38,000 women each year will experience a heart attack before age 50. No one should expect to experience all of the symptoms, but one or more new symptoms should raise a red flag.
1. Chest discomfort, pressure or squeezing. Chest pain is the most common sign of a heart attack in a woman but it may not be the “classic” constant, crushing pressure typically occurring in men. It may occur any where in the chest and it may come and go. New or sudden chest pain is not something you should ignore.
2. Pain in your arms, back, jaw or neck. Women more frequently than men experience pain outside of their chest, which may be misunderstood. A woman may experience a heavy sensation, tingling or pain in her arms or legs.
3. Stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting. Women commonly mistake heart attack symptoms for reflex, indigestion or a stomach bug. If you have not recently been ill and suddenly feel nauseated and have stomach pain or pressure it can be the sign of a heart attack.
4. Shortness of breath without chest pain. Shortness of breath can occur before, or without, chest pain. Feeling suddenly winded or that you can not take a deep breath can be a sign of a heart attack particularly in you are experiencing other symptoms.
5.Sweating. Women often break out in a nervous, cold-sweat during a heart attack. This can be confused with anxiety or a hot flash.
6. Lightheadness. Often accompanied by a cold, clammy sweat and shortness of breath, feeling faint could be a sign of a heart attack. If you have not just worked out and are adequately hydrated, sudden lightheadness could be a sign that not enough blood is getting to the brain.
7. Fatigue. A “silent heart attack” is often experienced as unexplained fatigue or subtle and non-specific complaints. Some women may complain of feeling “flu-like”. While during a silent heart attack, women do not realize they are experiencing a medical emergency, blood is not flowing to their heart causing serious damage.
What To Do If You Experience Heart Attack Symptoms:
Call 911 Immediately. Do not delay getting immediate medical care for any reason.
Do Not Drive Yourself to the Emergency Department. Do not have a loved one or friend drive you either. You need an ambulance and the fastest route to the hospital as possible.
Listen To Your Intuition. Trust your gut and have it checked out at the hospital right away if you think you may be having a heart attack. Do not worry about feeling foolish if the symptoms turn out to be a sign of something else. When it comes to heart disease, it is better to play it safe.