With heart disease being the highest killer in the United States, it is highly recommended that everyone be on the lookout for the warning signs of an impending heart attack. Every second matter and knowing what to expect can save your life or that of someone else.
For women, the signs of a heart attack are a bit different from those experienced by men. While some may still experience the classic symptoms of chest pain and pain in one arm, most women tend to have subtle and sometimes confusing symptoms. For this reason, it is easy to dismiss a heart attack as some other problem such as acid reflux or indigestion. Even when they go to a hospital, doctors can very easily miss the warning signs and send a patient home.
Such misdiagnosis has been suspected of creating a higher risk of fatality from a heart attack in young women (30 to 54 years old) than in men (www.sciencedirect.com) Silent symptoms are just as deadly as the more noticeable ones and medical care must be requested immediately by calling 911.
Whether it is for you, a friend or a family member, here are the female heart attack symptoms to look out for. They apply to women of all ages. It is also important to note that some of these signs can occur persistently for weeks or months before a heart attack strikes.
1. Chest pain
Chest pain is a major heart attack symptom for both men and women. Women tend to experience a feeling of fullness, like a vice being tightened around the chest. It is an unusual feeling of tightening pressure that does not let go quickly. The pain can occur on any side of the chest, not just on the left where the heart is located below the ribcage.
As much as chest pain is common among female heart attack sufferers, you must note that it does not have to precede a heart attack. In fact, a certain study that involved women, 43% of them did not report any chest pain. (http://www.webmd.boots.com/heart-disease/features/her-guide-to-a-heart-attack) So as you look out for the chest pain warning, do not forget about these others.
2. Shortness of breath
This is by far the most commonly experienced symptom of heart attack in women. The same study that found numerous cases of no chest pain during heart attacks also found that 57.9% of women experienced a shortness of breath. This is a symptom also echoed by most medical professionals and past sufferers.
Shortness of breath due to a heart problem often occurs without warning. Even if you are resting, you suddenly start experiencing breathing trouble for no apparent reason. You could be sitting down but then suddenly feel as if you have just cycled up a steep hill. This is a classic sign of heart attack. Get medical help immediately.
Sometimes, shortness of breath sets in slowly over time. You find that even light activities such as walking up the stairs or carrying a conversation leave you out of breath. If you do not suffer from asthma or any other pulmonary problem, it could be a developing heart problem especially if the breathlessness lingers around for too long.
Shortness of breath is often accompanied by several other symptoms including nausea and dizziness. They could be caused by inadequate oxygenated blood reaching the heart, an occurrence associated with heart attack.
3. Weakness and extreme fatigue
In the mentioned study, 54.8% of women experienced weakness while 42.9% reported unusual fatigue. Take note of how you are feeling after carrying out small tasks. If a short walk or unloading groceries unusually tires you out with no apparent reason, be concerned. Sometimes the problem goes beyond weakness to extreme fatigue that comes out of nowhere.
This form of fatigue is not caused by working too much or too little rest, it is a feeling that tends to persist for hours or even all the time. This is could be a sign that your heart is not getting enough oxygenated blood to keep it functioning at its best.
Like shortness of breath and fatigue, sweating may occur even when you are at rest or engaging in light activities. This kind of sweating that signals a heart problem feels like a stress-induced sweat rather than one caused by physical activity. If you are not experiencing hot flushes and this kind of sweating is unusual for you, it is extremely important to have a doctor check it out immediately. Be even more concerned if other symptoms like nausea and lightheadedness accompany it.
5. Persistent insomnia and anxiety
For months or weeks before a heart attack, women describe a feeling of anxiety that can sometimes extend to insomnia. Generally, a sense of pending doom occurs, causing even more stress. This anxiety combined with insomnia can raise blood pressure and reduce insulin sensitivity. This could further damage your heart and increase the risk of a heart attack.
6. Non-chest pain
Women are more likely to experience non-chest pain as a sign of a heart attack than men. This pain often occurs in the arms, jaw, back and neck. This pain can be confusing since many women expect it in their chests. If it is unusual and does not go away even with rest, it is important to get checked by a doctor.
7. Stomach pain
Stomach pain, another of female heart attack symptoms, occurs largely in women. It can be easily confused for Fluor indigestion. The best way to know if it is something to worry about is if it persists and is accompanied by dizziness, cold sweat, and nausea.
Reducing the risk of fatality from a heart attack depends on how quickly you can take action. By being on the constant lookout, you can catch the problem weeks or months in advance. But if a heart attack catches you or a loved one by surprise, speed is essential. Call 911 immediately to get medical assistance. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, do not wait for it to get serious. Go see a doctor even if you do not think it is a heart attack.