Crushing chest pain is a classic heart attack symptom, but did you know that women may experience heart attacks differently? Not only do women have unique risk factors for heart attacks, but they are also more likely to present with atypical symptoms when a heart attack strikes. Learn more about how heart attacks affect women differently and what symptoms to recognize.
At Metropolitan Cardiovascular Consultants, LLC, board-certified cardiologist Ayim Djamson, MD, and our experienced team of clinicians want to help keep your heart healthy.
We want to raise awareness and arm women with information about how heart attacks affect them differently. Discuss this information with Dr. Djamson if you have concerns about your heart health.
Heart disease isn’t just a threat to men
Men and women are equally at risk of heart disease and its consequences, Each year heart attacks and strokes affect more than 1.5 million people, about half of which are women. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in women in the US causing more deaths than Breast Cancer.
A heart attack occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow to the heart, typically caused by a buildup of plaque in arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle (Coronary Artery Disease). Without blood flow, the heart muscle is starved of oxygen and this results in injury. The extent of heart muscle damage depends on the size of the affected area and the time between the onset of symptoms and initiation of treatment.
In short, when it comes to a heart attack, every second counts. The sooner you get medical attention for a heart attack, the better your chances of survival and recovery. Time is Muscle!
Heart attack symptoms may be different in women
Receiving rapid medical attention when having a heart attack saves lives and heart muscle, it is, therefore, imperative to recognize warning signs. Men tend to get help quickly because severe symptoms like chest pain, sweating, and shortness of breath alert them to a problem.
Symptoms in women, on the other hand, may be more subtle, making it easier to attribute symptoms to other conditions such as stress. If a woman doesn’t recognize the symptoms, she may delay seeking medical attention.
Symptoms women should watch out for include:
- Unexplained Nausea
- Unexplained fatigue
- Pain in the arm
- Back pain
- Generalized fatigue
Women may experience warning signs in the month before a heart attack. These symptoms are vague and easy to dismiss and include
- Unexplained abdominal pain
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Shortness of breath
What don’t you see on this list? Chest pain. That’s because women may or may not experience chest discomfort. It’s important to be aware that the lack of chest pain isn’t an indication that you’re not having a heart attack. Don’t rely on chest pain as the only symptom of a heart attack. However, you should always seek medical attention if you do develop chest discomfort.
How do you know if you’re having a heart attack?
A wide array of conditions are associated with the symptoms we’ve listed here, so you may be wondering: Just how do you tell if you’re in danger of a heart attack?
The chances that these symptoms are due to a decreased blood supply the heart muscle are increased if you have at least one of the following risk factors:
A first degree relative with a history of Coronary Artery Disease
History of plaque Buildup In any other Arteries
History of a Stroke or Peripheral Artery Disease
Use of Certain Oral Contraceptive Pills
Having one of these symptoms on its own is unlikely to be due to a heart attack. When several of these symptoms occur at the same time or if you have any of these symptoms and you have any of the risk factors listed above it’s best to seek medical attention right away
Heart health checkup
Good preventive care with a heart-healthy lifestyle and regular heart health checks is the best way to keep your heart healthy. Regular health checks can alert your doctor to potential problems before it’s too late.
We also recommend that you get regular checkups beginning at age 20 with your primary care provider. It’s especially important if you have any cardiac risk factors or if you have heart-related symptoms.
To learn more about how you can keep your heart healthy, please reach out to us by phone or request an appointment online at one of our three locations in Beltsville, Bowie, and Columbia, Maryland. You can also send a message to Dr. Djamson and his team via our website.