It seems like everyone in my parents’ generation has been having heart issues the last few years. My dad was just hospitalized this weekend for an irregular heartbeat and chest pains. My mom has had surgery for a-fib. My aunts have had irregular heartbeats and heart trouble.
It’s scary and, truth be told, I always worry that I won’t recognize the signs of a heart attack when I see them.
Because despite the dramatic heart attacks on TV, it’s definitely not always as easy to spot as what Hollywood portrays. Sometimes a heart attack happens even after getting a clean bill of health from a doctor, and sometimes it happens right after eating a great meal. It can strike at any time, including in your sleep – which is probably the scariest of all.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
We hear all the time that women often have different symptoms than men. Even though the symptoms may differ slightly, a heart attack is the leading cause of death for both men and women. You could even argue that a heart attack is more deadly for women, because women often miss their symptoms and don’t get medical attention fast enough.
During a heart attack, every second counts.
Common Symptoms in Women
These symptoms are more likely to be seen in women who are experiencing a heart attack, but men could have them too, so don’t dismiss them if you’re a male!
* Unusual Weakness and Fatigue – This is an especially likely symptom if you’re female. If you have no other explanation and the weakness and fatigue come on suddenly, call 911 immediately.
* Sleep Disturbances – Many women experience sleep disturbances during heart issues because they’re lying down. If you wake up with chest pains, shortness of breath, or feelings of unusual weakness – call 911.
* Shortness of Breath – If you start to suddenly experience shortness of breath for no apparent reason, suspect a heart attack.
* Indigestion – It can be really difficult to tell severe heartburn from a heart attack. If you just had a heavy meal, it’s more likely that it’s heartburn. But, if it comes on suddenly without warning, then you should go to urgent care or the emergency room right away.
* Anxiety – You’ve heard of people having panic attacks they thought were heart attacks, but sometimes it’s really a heart attack. I actually experienced this in March of this year and had my husband take me to the ER. They did a full cardiac workup and chest x-ray, but determined it was more likely stress and anxiety. Ironically, I went for my yearly mammogram a few weeks later and somehow the topic came up with the woman who was doing the test. She said the same thing had happened to her before and she urged me to not hesitate getting treatment. She said, “Even as a former EMT, I still couldn’t tell if I was having a heart attack or if it was anxiety. Don’t ever hesitate. It’s better to just go and get it checked out than not go and wind up dying.”
* Jaw Pain – One of the other symptoms for women having heart attacks is left jaw aches and tenderness, either along with the neck or just the jaw. If you have persistent jaw pain, ask your doctor to rule out heart issues.
Did you know that about only 1/3 of all women who have heart attacks report the chest pain and pressure that everyone associates with heart attacks? While it’s not as common, it’s definitely a sign that calls for immediate medical intervention.
Knowing what to look for and, more importantly, not hesitating to get medical attention can mean the difference between life and death. You’re life is too precious to not get help.
Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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