Heart disease is often considered a significant problem for men. However, it is the most common cause of death for men and women in different countries, including the United States. Since some of the symptoms of heart attack in women are different than men, women often do not know what to look for.
Luckily, by learning the symptoms of their specific heart disease, women can reduce their risk of heart disease.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
The most common symptoms of a heart attack in women are the same as in men – some types of chest pain, pressure, or discomfort lasting more than a few minutes. But chest pain is not always a severe or noticeable symptom, especially in women. Women often describe it as stress or tightness. And, it is possible to have a heart attack without chest pain.
Heart attack symptoms associated with chest pain are more common in women than men, including:
- Discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arm
- Vomiting or nausea
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Unusual fatigue
These symptoms may be vague, and chest pain is often not associated with a heart attack. Women may have blockages in their main arteries and the small arteries that supply blood to the heart – a condition known as coronary heart disease or coronary micro vascular disease.
Symptoms are more common in women than men, either at rest or at bedtime. Emotional stress plays a role in triggering heart attack symptoms in women.
Because women do not always recognize their symptoms as heart attack, they are referred to the emergency room after a heart attack. In addition, since their symptoms are often different from those of men, heart disease may be less frequently diagnosed in women than men.
If you feel you have symptoms of a heart attack or think that you have a heart attack, it is best to call for emergency medical help immediately. Take yourself to the ER if you don’t have any other option.
Risk factors for heart disease in women
Many common risk factors for coronary artery disease – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity – affect both women and men. But other factors play a crucial role in the development of heart disease in women as well. These include:
Diabetic women are more at peril for heart diseases than men without diabetes. Also, since diabetes can change the way you feel pain, you have a higher risk of having a silent heart attack without any symptoms.
Stress and depression.
Stress and depression affect the hearts of women more than men. Stress makes it hard to maintain a normal lifestyle and follow prescribed treatments.
Smoking is a more significant risk factor for heart disease in women than in men.
Loss of physical activity is a vital determinant for heart disease. Studies have discovered that women are less active than men.
Low levels of estrogen after menopause increase the risk of developing the disease in small blood vessels.
High blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy can increase a mother’s high blood pressure and chronic risk of diabetes.
Family history of early heart disease.
It appears to be a higher risk factor in women than men.
Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and others increase the risk of heart disease in both men and women.
Is heart disease a concern only for older women?
Hardly that. Women of all ages must take heart disease seriously. Women under the age of 65 – especially women with a family history of heart disease – should also pay close attention to the risk factors for heart disease.
What should women do to reduce their risk of heart disease?
Sticking to a healthy lifestyle can lessen the risk of heart disease. Try these heart-healthy strategies:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly. Generally, everyone should exercise moderately, such as brisk walking, several days a week.
- Maintain a normal weight. Ask your physician what weight is best for you. If you are overweight, losing a few pounds can also lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of diabetes.
- Have a healthy diet. Prefer whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. Discard saturated or trans fats, added sugars, and high amounts of salt from your daily diet.
- Regulate your stress. Stress causes your arteries to constrict, which increases your risk of heart disease, mainly coronary micro vascular disease.
- Limit alcohol. If you drink more than one beverage per day, reduce it.
- Follow your treatment plan. Take your medication exactly as prescribed, such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners, and aspirin.
- Maintain other health ailments. High blood pressure and cholesterol, and diabetes boost the risk of heart disease.
- Exercise to lessen the danger of heart attack. It is ideal to perform at least 150 minutes of gentle aerobic activity per week, 75 minutes per week of intense aerobic exercise, or a combination of both. That is five days a week, 30 minutes a day. If there is more than you can do, start slowly and build. There are also health benefits to exercising five minutes a day. To stay well, aim to do around 60 minutes of moderate & strenuous training five days a week. Also, do strength training activities two or more days a week.
It is a good strategy to divide your workout into several 10-minute sessions a day. You still get the same heart-healthy benefits.
Treatment of heart attack
While waiting for an ambulance, it is helpful to chew and swallow a tablet of aspirin (ideally 300mg) unless the person having the cardiac attack is allergic to aspirin.
Aspirin dilutes the blood and improves blood circulation to the heart.
Treatment for heart attack in the hospital depends on how severe it is.
There are two main treatments:
- Using drugs to dissolve blood clots
- Surgical treatment can help to restore blood to the heart