Are heart attack symptoms in women different? People in general know the usual heart attack symptoms and are shocked to find out that in women these can be very different. Understanding these differences could actually be a matter of life and death, so if you are female you should definitely pay attention. What you think you know about heart attack and the early warning signs could result in delayed treatment or worse.
A heart attack occurs when heart tissue dies due to a lack of blood flow, this occurs when one of the coronary arteries that feed the heart becomes blocked. When the muscle begins to die it causes chest pain and instability, which results in a heart that is not adequately pumping blood to the rest of the body. In this state, the heart muscle can manage nothing more than a quiver, rather than the strong pumping action required to deliver oxygenated blood to your extremities. Loss of blood flow to the brain can cause severe damage and even death if not addressed quickly.
- Shortness of breath
- Radiating pain down the left arm
- Squeezing chest pains
Research shows that 90-95% of patients who receive medical care will survive a heart attack, which is why understanding the warning signs are so important.
Chest pain is the hallmark symptom of a heart attack but when it comes to heart attack symptoms in women, you might be surprised to find that one study showed nearly 43% of those in the study who suffered a heart attack didn’t have any chest pain at all. These are significant findings to say the least! Heart attack symptoms in women are more often than not atypical and can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Upper abdominal pain
- Unusual fatigue
- Lower chest pain
- Indigestion like symptoms
- Upper back pain
As you can see none of these symptoms point definitively to a heart issue, in fact there are dozens of less severe diagnosis’s that could be made with these signs. Consider the following:
- Shortness of Breath- having trouble catching your breath is much more commonly associated with the lungs than the heart. Asthma, allergies, upper respiratory infection or simply being out of shape are much more likely explanations.
- Upper Abdominal Pain- Gas, indigestion, constipation or tainted food could explain this type of pain. Again, given the location the heart is never considered the first option.
- Weakness- being weak is such a vague symptom it is little wonder it is overlooked. Lack of sleep, stress, a particularly heavy menstrual cycle and being out of shape could explain weakness.
- Lower Chest Pain- women commonly suffer from gall bladder issues, which can cause pain in the lower chest just below the ribs. This symptom and potential diagnosis is also on par with indigestion; gall bladder issues and acid reflux are very similar in nature.
Physicians look for indicators as well as symptoms before making a diagnosis. For example, a young woman in good physical shape with no family history of heart disease would be considered at low risk for a heart attack. Unfortunately, heart attack symptoms can and do occur in women with this description and doctors may dismiss the possibility without extensive testing due to risk factors.
Your health is nothing to play around with and if you fit into the extreme atypical scenario, you may need to become extremely proactive in pursuing a diagnosis. Since early detection and treatment can mean the difference between life and death, do not rest without getting the answers you deserve. The longer a blockage goes untreated the more damage your heart can suffer, leaving you at risk for complete heart failure.
If you believe you are exhibiting heart attack symptoms in women, do not be afraid to say so. As soon as you arrive in the emergency room firmly announce you believe you could be having a heart attack. You should immediately receive the following evaluations and treatments:
- Blood tests
- Aspirin treatment
- Possible Cardio Catheterization
In some cases, you will have to present your case strongly in order to receive the appropriate evaluation. It is important that you not allow medical personnel to talk you out of what you believe. Hospitals and physicians who are not accustomed to dealing with atypical heart attack symptoms in women will naturally be more resistant to listening. If all else fails and your arguments fall on deaf ears request to be seen by a cardiologist.
This information is not meant to panic you about heart attack symptoms in women, but merely to inform you so that you make the best medical decisions possible. It can be a little scary to think that something as innocuous as fatigue and indigestion could actually be signs of a life threatening condition. The only thing worse, is actually having heart attack symptoms in women and being unaware!