Heart attacks are often seen as something that happens to only older men and not women, however heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide.
Interestingly,the way women experience a heart attack may be different from men.
During a heart attack, both men and women may have chest pain but women tend to have additional symptoms and this increases the risk of a “silent” heart attack because these symptoms are caused by anxiety and stress.
Heart attack symptoms in women
Research has shown that when women have a heart attack, they’re more likely to experience 3 or more related symptoms compared to men.
These symptoms include
back pain, and
shortness of breath.
These symptoms can make it hard for women to tell if they’re having a heart attack or not as they’re so common.
Let’s have a look at these symptoms, shall we?
Chest pain is a prevalent symptom associated with heart disease in both men and women.
“About 90% of women and men have chest pain when they’re having a heart attack,” says Dr. Lee, with this pain happens after either physical (exercise) or emotional stress
The chest pain could include:
Still, women can experience a ‘silent’ heart attack without having any chest discomfort.
Back, Arm, Neck or Jaw pain
Women are more likely to have pains around their jaw, back, neck, or arms which could intensify for several minutes
Shortness of breath: One might be having a heart attack if there’s a shortness of breath for no reason, let’s say you took your dog out for a walk and suddenly you can’t catch your breath while walking down which makes you stop occasionally for rest,there, that’s a sign of heart failure.
Feeling suddenly short of breath when not exercising is a symptom and should be handled accordingly
Have you been tired for no reason for a while now?
Think back to yesterday or even the past week for any sudden feeling of tiredness as that maybe a sign of heart attack.
It could be so severe that some women may not be able to perform their regular activities because of extreme tiredness.
Excessive sweating in addition to a chest pain is a sign of heart attack in women.
One may feel a cold sweat or a clammy feeling experiencing chest pain.
Other common symptoms of heart attack in women include:
- nausea, vomiting
- light headedness, dizziness,
- sleep troubles
- general weakness
- unusually fast or slow heart rate
- palpitations, or a fluttering/pounding heart rate
- anxiety or fear
Risk factors for a heart attack in women.
These risks include:
- Age: Those aged 55 years or older are at greater risk of heart attack.
- Family history of early heart attacks: A family of more reported heart attacks of both men and women are at high risk.
- Medical conditions: Those with conditions like diabetes and obesity are more likely to have heart attacks.
- Lifestyle choices such as smoking and alcohol are greater risk factors for heart disease in women than in men.
- Emotional stress and depression: Stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than men’s.
- Inactivity: A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Pregnancy complications: High blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can increase the mother’s long-term risk of developing a heart attack.
How to Lower the risk of heart attacks in women
Staying heart healthy is easier than you might realize.
- Avoid smoking.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid or limit alcohol use.
- Manage your blood pressure
- Manage stress.
- Manage other health conditions.
A heart attack is serious and requires emergency treatment.
The sooner you report a problem, the better your chances.
Understanding your risk factors and knowing common heart attack symptoms are important first steps in taking care of your heart.