When someone is having a heart attack we often imagine someone clutching their chest and describing the sensation of having an “elephant sitting on their chest”. While this is often the case, women may experience different symptoms causing a delay in getting appropriate medical care.
Women are more likely to have the following symptoms when having a heart attack:
· Atypical chest pain that presents in the upper back, shoulders, jaw, neck, arms and upper abdomen. The pain may not be as severe as one would think. Often this pain can be confused with heartburn.
· Shortness of breath that does not necessarily correlate with the activity being done. Some women describe a feeling of gasping for air like they had run a marathon.
· Heavy sweating that is sudden. It may be difficult to differentiate from a menopausal hot-flash. Some women describe it as feeling both hot and cold with clammy skin.
· Unusual fatigue can be described in the days or weeks prior to the heart attack. The fatigue is often described as profound, limiting even the most simple daily activities, such as making a bed, walking to the bathroom or lifting a laptop.
· Lightheadedness and nausea can occur during an attack.
· Women can also have the classic crushing chest pressure. However, it is important to remember that heart attack symptoms in women can be much more subtle.
Most of the heart disease risk factors for women are similar to men but there are some differences.
· High cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
· Loss of estrogen after menopause.
· Weight gain around the belly – usually most prominent during and after menopause.
· Smoking!!!! This has been shown to be a bigger risk factor for women than in men.
· Being overweight.
· Not exercising.
· A diet high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.
· High blood pressure and Diabetes.
· Family history of heart disease.
· Women in their early fifties can have a heart attack. So you do not have to be older to have a heart attack.
What can you do to lessen your chances of having a heart attack or suffering a severe heart attack?
· Know the symptoms. Call 911 or seek medical care immediately if you experience the above symptoms!
· Exercise regularly: That means 30 to 60 minutes a day.
· Don’t smoke!
· Maintain a healthy weight.
· Eat a diet of lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, olive oil, monounsaturated fats and complex carbohydrates.
· Reduce emotional stress.
· Take prescribed medications properly.
Prevention of heart disease and early recognition of a heart attack symptoms are the keys to preventing serious damage from heart disease.