Oftentimes, the early warning signs of a heart attack are different in women than in men.
In fact, the top four symptoms are often misdiagnosed. Remember, time is heart muscle, so make sure you know the warning signs of a heart attack.
• Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
• Nausea and lightheadedness
• Flu-like symptoms, including chills and cold sweats
• Heart palpitations
• Chest discomfort (angina): pain, tightness or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back
• Discomfort in other areas, including pain or discomfort in: one or both arms (especially the left arm), the back, between the shoulder blades, neck, jaw or stomach
• Heartburn or indigestion
• Extreme fatigue
Not only is a woman's risk of developing heart disease as great as a man’s, her chances of surviving a heart attack are less. Overall, more women over 65 will die from heart disease than all cancers combined. And during the last 20 years, while the death rate of men from heart disease has steadily declined, the rate for women has not.
If you already knew this, you may be more aware of the facts than your healthcare practitioner. In a recent study, fewer than one in five physicians recognized that more women than men die of heart disease each year. Why is this misperception so prevalent? Maybe because the symptoms of heart disease show up differently in women, and many doctors don’t recognize them until a major cardiac event is taking place. Therefore, women sometimes receive less aggressive treatment, and occasionally no treatment at all.
The physicians of the Bellin Health Heart & Vascular Center made a commitment years ago to improving heart care for women by maintaining an aggressive and vigilant fight to educate and treat women from a perspective of understanding and concern. “We work hard to prevent gender bias,” says Dr. Don Jenny, of Cardiology Associates and the Bellin Heart & Vascular Center. “We recognize that women are at risk and we are diligent in our search for the cause of any symptom that could be a heart attack warning sign.”
“We’ve created an environment in which women can feel safe and take comfort in knowing that they will be treated with dignity and respect,” Jenny says.