February Marks the Time to Listen to Your Heart And Take Charge
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Feb. 13, 2020) - Shortness of breath, nausea, anxiety and back or jaw pain. If you have these symptoms – and you are a woman – you may be having a heart attack.
While there have been significant advances in heart disease research and treatment, women are still at a higher risk for dying from heart attacks. The American Heart Association recently issued an important warning about the differences between heart attack signs and their underlying causes in women. Heart attacks in women don’t always feel like the typical chest pain more often experienced by men. Not knowing the symptoms can delay treatment, making heart disease more deadly for women.
“Women may not feel that ‘heavy elephant on the chest’ pain that men do, but may have other subtle indicators such as uncomfortable pressure or fullness in the center of the chest,” stated Esosa Odigie-Okon, MD, MSc, FACC, cardiologist with Lutheran Health Physicians.
Women and their loved ones need to know what a heart attack looks like so they can get treatment fast. While chest pain and discomfort is a common heart attack symptom in both men and women, women are more likely to experience other signs too, according to the American Heart Association:
- Pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
If you or someone else experiences any of these warning signs, dial 9-1-1 immediately.
The causes of heart attacks in women can differ from men, too. Understanding the cause of women’s heart attacks is critical to prescribing the best treatment and increases their chance of surviving and preventing another heart attack. Women more often have underlying risk factors like diabetes or high blood pressure and their blood vessels tend to be smaller. Yet, guideline-recommended medications and cardiac rehabilitation are not prescribed as often for women.
“As women, we tend to credit these subtle signs like exhaustion or stomach pain to anxiety, stress, hormones or just a bad day,” Odigie-Okon continued. “Women miss so many opportunities to get an early diagnosis and preventative treatment early on.”
Heart disease continues to be the number one killer for women, with more deaths each year than all forms of cancer combined. Prevention and treatment can be effective in reducing the chance of having or dying from a heart attack. If you or a woman who is special to you has risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity, is a smoker, or has a personal or family history of heart disease, consider talking to a physician. Women often sacrifice their health to take care of others. This month, make women’s heart health a priority.
The foundation of Lutheran Health Network is built on an experienced team of more than 7,000 employees working together with the more than 800 physicians who compose its medical staffs. The network’s more than 100 access points in northern Indiana include physician offices, urgent care clinics, outpatient centers and eight hospitals.