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Symptoms of a heart attack in women 2023

27 marzo, 2024

People often think that heart attacks are something that happens to older men, not women. But heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. However, only about half of women know this. Discover here the symptoms of a heart attack in women so that you are always attentive to the messages your body sends.

The way women experience a heart attack may be different than men. While both men and women can have chest pain during a heart attack, women also tend to have more symptoms in addition to chest pain.

Researchers found that when women have a heart attack, they are more likely to experience 3 or more related symptoms compared to men. These symptoms can include jaw pain, neck pain, back pain, and difficulty breathing, and can make it difficult for women to know if they are having a heart attack.

Women are also more likely than men to think that their heart attack symptoms are caused by anxiety and stress. This misunderstanding, combined with a broader range of symptoms, can cause women to wait longer for treatment.

“Several studies have shown that women wait longer than men to receive treatment for a heart attack,” says Mingsum Lee, MD, a clinical cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

Therefore, it is important to know these symptoms of a heart attack in women and know when to seek care.

symptoms of a heart attack in women

Symptoms of a heart attack in women

Chest pain

The most common heart attack symptom for women (and men) is chest pain. “At least 90% of women and men experience chest pain when they have a heart attack,” says Dr. Lee.

This chest pain and discomfort usually occurs after stress; Stress can be physical, such as exercise, or emotional stress. The pain is usually strong, appears gradually and increases in intensity over several minutes.

“Typically, patients describe the pain as difficult and deep to locate or pinpoint,” says Dr. Lee. “People generally use terms like ‘pressure,’ ‘tightness,’ ‘heaviness,’ or ‘tightness’ to describe the sensation in the chest.”

Pain in the arm, neck, back, or jaw

“Sometimes chest pain can shoot up or travel through your arm, neck, jaw, or back,” says Dr. Lee. The pain may gradually become more intense over several minutes.

Since most people expect to feel chest pain during a heart attack, these symptoms can be very confusing. This is especially true because it can be difficult to determine where the pain started.

Stomach pain: symptoms of a heart attack in women

Nausea and stomach pain can also be warning signs of a heart attack for women. “Sometimes people come late for care because they think they have heartburn or acid reflux,” Dr. Lee says. Heartburn or reflux comes from inflammation in the esophagus, the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach, which is right next to the heart. This can make it difficult to know if it is discomfort from eating certain foods or a heart attack. “Generally speaking, heartburn can be triggered by certain spicy foods, citrus fruits, and alcohol,” he explains. And acid reflux feels worse when you lie down.

Difficulty breathing

You may be having a heart attack if you suddenly have difficulty breathing for no apparent reason. You may feel like you have to stop and catch your breath while performing an everyday task. “For example, if you can normally do your grocery shopping without a problem, but suddenly you can’t catch your breath while walking down the aisle of the grocery store and you have to stop to rest, that’s a warning sign,” says the Dr. Sotavento.

Perspiration

Sudden sweating plus chest pain is another symptom related to a heart attack in women. You may break out in a cold sweat or feel clammy and at the same time feel some pain in your chest.

Fatigue

Likewise, chest pain with sudden fatigue may be a sign that you are having a heart attack. He may feel overly tired for no reason, and the fatigue comes out of nowhere. His usual activities suddenly become too difficult because he is extremely tired.

Don’t hesitate to call 911

You may not have all of these warning signs of a heart attack. But if you have any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Dont wait. Describe your symptoms and tell the 911 operator that you may be having a heart attack.

In her work, Dr. Lee has seen that both young and older women put off going to the doctor, even when they feel symptoms of a heart attack. “Young women often focus on caring for their children or elderly parents, and they don’t come to the hospital because there is no one else to care for their children or parents,” she says.

On the other hand, Dr. Lee has seen older women who are widowed and living alone who don’t want to bother their children or friends. “These women may have chest pain, but they don’t want to bother people. So they sit at home and wait for the symptoms to go away,” she says. Sometimes they don’t drive and are embarrassed to ask for help.

“I think a lot of times women are used to being the caregivers, so when they need help themselves, they’re not used to asking for it,” Dr. Lee says. This could be another reason why women wait so long to receive care for heart attacks.

But it’s important to listen to your body and prioritize your health.

Bottom line: If you’re not sure if you’re having a heart attack, go to the hospital to get checked out. “The sooner you get medical care,” says Dr. Lee, “the sooner we can start therapy and the less damage there will be to your heart.”

symptoms of a heart attack in women

Heart attack risk factors in women: symptoms of a heart attack in women

In addition to knowing the key symptoms of a heart attack, it’s also important to know if you have risk factors for heart disease. “Many women don’t know they are at risk for a heart attack,” explains Dr. Lee. “So when they start having symptoms, they don’t even consider it a warning sign.”

Common risk factors for women include:

Certain medical conditions

Women are at higher risk of heart disease if they have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or an inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Pregnancy complications

Women who had complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, or preeclampsia, are at increased risk of having a heart attack in the future.

From smoking

Research shows that smoking can increase the risk of heart attack in young people. 3 And female smokers are 25% more likely to have heart disease than male smokers.

Lifestyle options

Poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity increase a woman’s risk of having a heart attack.

Menopause

Lower estrogen levels after menopause may increase heart attack risk for women.

Taking your health seriously

It is important to understand your risk factors and be aware of common symptoms of a heart attack. Another way you can take care of your heart health is by focusing on prevention.