Posted on Jun 2, 2011 in Health & safety
Are the symptoms of a heart attack really different for women than they are for men?
First of all, we are not medical professionals — and this is a website, not a hospital. If you’re worried that you may possibly be having a heart attack, don’t delay treatment. Get help. Now.
And then for everyone else who’s just trying to learn more…
Go Red For Women (an initiative from the American Heart Association) says that heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. This means women are dying at the rate of one per minute.
Clearly, more women need to learn the heart attack warning signs. These include, but are not limited to, these symptoms outlined by The Office on Women’s Health:
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that, as with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are a little more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms — especially shortness of breath, nausea and/or vomiting, as well as back or jaw pain.
But women don’t often just have different symptoms of a heart attack — they’re less likely to believe it’s happening to them, and more likely to delay getting help.
Go Red for Women also notes that most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. In fact, often the people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help.
But sometimes, the signs have been there for days — even weeks. In fact, the National Institute of Nursing Research released a very informative research summary called Subtle and Dangerous: Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women, which included this important finding:
The research team administered the McSweeney Acute and Prodromal Myocardial Infarction Symptoms Survey (MAPMISS) questionnaire to over 500 female cardiac patients who had suffered a heart attack within the last 4-6 months. Virtually all the women recalled having early (prodromal) symptoms within the weeks prior to their attack. The most frequent symptoms were unusual fatigue and sleep disturbance. Other symptoms included shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety. Less than a third of the women in the survey reported any early warning signs involving chest pain or discomfort. Acute symptoms experienced during the attack included shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, cold sweats and dizziness. In contrast to most men, fewer than half of these women reported some degree of pressure, pain or tightness of the chest during the critical time of attack onset.
Read one woman’s heart attack story here: (Don’t) Be Still My Heart
WomenHeart, a nonprofit patient advocacy organization, says that women delay getting medical care for heart attacks more so than men. This happens for several reasons, including these five they listed:
The Women’s Heart Foundation says that getting treatment quickly — at the first sign of distress — is critical for lifesaving medicines and treatments to work. So if you feel heart attack symptoms, call 911, because even a few minutes matter!
Only an exam by a qualified medical professional — who will administer an electrocardiogram (EKG) and/or a blood test — will be able to confirm whether or not you are having, or have experienced, a heart attack.
When you call 911, they will dispatch an ambulance, and an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team can begin treatment as soon as they arrive — much earlier than you’d probably make it to the hospital. (Paramedics/EMS teams are also skilled in CPR and other resuscitation techniques.)
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