Heart attacks in women

Tis the season for anxiety and stress..
And so be on the look out for signs of heart attacks in women.

Huh? What about the searing pain you ask?

If a person complains about intense pain in their chest, we seem to have learned to ask about deep pain or throbbing in one or both arms. I can never remember if it’s generally the left or right arm. So it’s best to check both. You might also ask about back pain, breathlessness, and clammy sweating.

But studies are showing–and women are saying–that the signs of heart attacks in women are just different from those in men.

Depending on which study you read, between 30% and 43% of women who had heart attacks did not experience any type of chest discomfort. But 95% of women did experience some collection of early warning symptoms–either daily or several times a week–for a month or more before having a heart attach.

According to an article called “Women’s Early Warning Symptoms of Acute Myocardial Infarction,” published in Circulation, by the American Heart Association, on line Nov 3, 2003 here, the most common early warning symptoms for women are:

  • unusual fatigue and sleep disturbances,
  • shortness of breath,
  • indigestion, nausea, and vomiting
  • and anxiety

And ain’t this the season for all of those!

They also mention

  • general weakness
  • cold sweat and
  • dizziness

And the most interesting of the lesser named early warning symptoms were

  • Vision change
  • Cough
  • Choking
  • And a change in the taste of cigarettes!

When women did experience chest discomfort, they generally didn’t call it pain, but rather aching, tightness, or pressure. (Although, once upon a time I had a dentist who told me I was feeling pressure and not pain… so I’m pretty sure I’d equate pressure and pain!) They also call it sharpness, burning, fullness or tingling.

Clinicians need to include this longer list of descriptors when assessing women with suspected of having a heart attack or at risk for one rather than asking only about chest pain.

The study would not say whether the symptoms were predictive of an attach. But in my mind, it’s sure worth paying attention to. They also acknowledge that most of the women in the study were white, so they can’t be sure if ethnicity might make a difference.

Women often brush off these kinds of symptoms as sort of the cost of doing business as a woman, a mother, or a general over-achiever. But when you’re body keeps feeling just not right, pay attention! Don’t brush it off.

If you ain’t right.. you probably ain’t right!
I want you back here reading again next week!

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