Women's heart attack symptoms
Did you know that nearly five times as many women will die from heart attacks this year than from breast cancer? One reason heart attacks are so dangerous in women is because they are difficult to recognize.
Osama Ibrahim, M.D., a cardiologist for Mercy Tri-City Medicine, answers your questions on women’s heart attack symptoms and heart disease.
What are symptoms of a heart attack in women?
Even when chest pain is absent, most women do notice signs of trouble during a heart attack. The most common symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual fatigue or tiredness (not related to exercise)
Other common symptoms include:
- Pain in the upper abdomen, lower chest, neck, back, jaw or shoulder
- Digestive discomfort (nausea, vomiting, heartburn)
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
- Breaking into a cold sweat
- Racing or fluttering heartbeat
What is a common issue women have when faced with a medical emergency like a heart attack?
Many women wrongly assume that if they do not feel any chest pain, their illness is not an emergency.
Because their heart attacks can be more difficult to recognize, women need to know and respond to female heart attack symptoms. A woman who has symptoms of an intensity or persistence she has never felt before should call 911 right away — even if she is not sure that she is having a heart attack.
What are the risk factors for heart disease in women?
Women should also be aware of their risk factors for heart disease including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and most importantly a family history of heart disease.
What steps can women take to lower their risk of heart disease?
Eat a diet low in salt, cholesterol and saturated fat and do 10 to 30 minutes of walking or other moderate exercise most days of the week. Avoid or quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day and find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety.
What would you recommend women do at least once a year for their heart health?
Finally, visit your primary care physician at least once a year to discuss your personal risk and get recommended screenings. Your doctor can help you make a plan to address any treatable risk factors like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Working with a physician you trust can provide the support you need to reach your goals and live a richer, healthier life.
To locate a Mercy physician near you, please call 1-877-247-6161 or visit MercyOnline.org/doctors.