Women Have “Different” Heart Attacks

If you or someone you love was having a heart attack, would you be able to recognize the symptoms?

You may be surprised to learn there’s more to a heart attack than chest pain. Especially in women. In fact, many women never realize they’re having a heart attack – until it’s too late.

Over the past several decades, modern medicine has improved its ability to rescue heart attack victims. But you must receive this life saving technology fast. The most common reason for death or serious heart damage is that patients simply don’t recognize their symptoms in time.

The cells of your heart muscle require a constant supply of blood. If they don’t get, they die. We had a saying in medical school, “Dead meat, don’t beat.” The number of cells that die during a heart attack determines if you live or die.

If you survive, the extent of this damage determines your future capacity or incapacity. Early detection and treatment makes the difference.

Here’s a list of the common heart attack symptoms you’ve probably heard of:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Pain that radiates to the shoulders, neck, back or arms, especially the left arm
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating or breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain that radiates to the jaw

Most people know to look out for those classic symptoms. What they don’t know is that many heart attack victims don’t experience any of the classic symptoms.

Many believed they strained a muscle. Some have no pain at all.

The signs considered typical of a heart attack—sharp chest pains, pains running down the left arm, and shortness of breath—are true in men. These are the “classic” symptoms we mentioned above.

But they’re not common in women. A woman having a heart attack is more likely to experience:

  • Aches in the shoulders and both arms.
  • Abdominal discomfort that mimics indigestion.
  • Unusual fatigue.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • A general feeling that something’s wrong.
  • And often, no pain at all.

So what can you do? If you have one or more of the symptoms mentioned, get to an emergency room immediately! Don’t put it off. Calling 911 is usually better than driving to the hospital. The EMS team can begin treatment immediately.

While you are waiting for EMS to arrive, chew and swallow a regular 325 mg aspirin. There’s strong evidence that during a heart attack, a single aspirin could save your life.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD