Understanding heart attack signs in women

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Heart attacks are a leading health concern worldwide, and while they are common among both men and women, the way they manifest can differ significantly between the genders.

Traditionally, heart attack symptoms have been characterized by the experiences of men, leading to a gap in awareness about how women experience heart attacks.

This review shines a light on the eight symptoms and risk factors for heart attacks in women, with the aim of spreading knowledge and saving lives through early detection and prevention.

Heart attacks occur when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked, often by a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances, which form a plaque in the coronary arteries.

While chest pain is the most commonly recognized symptom, women are more likely than men to experience and report alternative symptoms.

The 8 Symptoms to Watch Out For

Chest Pain or Discomfort: Although it’s also common in men, women can experience chest pain not just as the classic “elephant sitting on the chest” but also as pressure or tightness.

Pain in the Arm, Back, Neck, or Jaw: This type of pain is more common in women. It can be gradual or sudden, and it may wax and wane before becoming intense.

Stomach Pain: Sometimes mistaken for heartburn, flu, or a stomach ulcer, some women report feeling a sense of doom or having severe abdominal pressure during a heart attack.

Shortness of Breath, Nausea, or Lightheadedness: Women may experience these symptoms without having chest discomfort. Breathlessness can occur while at rest or during physical activity.

Sweating: Breaking out in a nervous, cold sweat is a common symptom in women, different from stress-related sweating or hot flashes associated with menopause.

Fatigue: Some women who have heart attacks feel extremely tired, even if they’ve been sitting still for a while or haven’t exerted themselves much.

Sleep Disturbances: Trouble sleeping may precede a heart attack by days or even weeks, but many women don’t connect this symptom with heart health.

Anxiety: Women can feel a sense of impending doom or fear before a heart attack, often dismissed as stress rather than a sign of a heart issue.

Risk Factors Specific to Women

Several risk factors increase the chances of having a heart attack, some of which are more prevalent or have a different impact on women compared to men.

Age: Women over the age of 55 are at a higher risk, partly because menopause typically leads to increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Family History: A family history of heart disease, especially in a parent or sibling, elevates the risk.

High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: The impact of high blood pressure and cholesterol on heart health is more significant in women.

Diabetes: Women with diabetes are more likely to have heart attacks compared to men with diabetes.

Mental Stress and Depression: Stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than men’s. Women may have a harder time recovering from a heart attack due to these conditions.

Smoking: Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than in men.

Physical Inactivity: A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease and is more common among women.

Obesity: Being overweight affects heart health more drastically in women.

Recognizing these symptoms and risk factors is crucial for early detection and prevention of heart attacks in women.

Lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, quitting smoking, and managing stress, can significantly reduce the risk.

Awareness and education are key, as understanding these signs can lead to prompt action and treatment, potentially saving lives.

If you care about heart health, please read studies that vitamin K helps cut heart disease risk by a third, and a year of exercise reversed worrisome heart failure.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about supplements that could help prevent heart disease, stroke, and results showing this food ingredient may strongly increase heart disease death risk.

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