Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Easy to Miss Signs of a Heart Attack in Women

Common media depictions of heart attack symptoms include a man clutching his chest, falling to the floor with an arm outstretched, instantly knowing he was having a heart attack. However, women don’t experience heart attacks the same way men do. Many women don’t recognize the early signs and symptoms, or mistake them for other health conditions. Read on to learn more about the easy to miss signs of a heart attack in women.


This information is merely informative and should not be construed as medical advice. If you feel as if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or that you may be having a heart attack, please immediately get to your nearest emergency room or call 911.


6 easy to miss signs

About 90 percent of women and men experience some form of chest discomfort during a heart attack. However, some heart attacks present with no chest pain at all, and many people often find that the “pain” associated with a heart attack was similar to that of indigestion or acid reflux. While the symptoms may vary, the cause is almost always a blockage in a major artery that prevents blood from flowing to the heart.  Women are also more likely to experience heart attack symptoms while resting or sleeping than men are.


You should always report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor. These are six easy to miss signs that might mean you’re experiencing a heart attack:


1.      Pain that comes and goes

You may feel a pain, a squeezing, a pressure or a fullness sensation in your chest. However, what makes this an easy to miss sign is that it can often come and go, which can confuse some women into thinking it was anxiety or a random, harmless chest pain. These sensations tend to return quickly and last only a few minutes at a time.


2.      Unusual fatigue

You may have a busy schedule, so you’re used to feeling tired. However, the fatigue associated with heart attacks tends to be more unusual than normal tiredness after a long day. Pay attention to fatigue that is new or that has dramatically increased within a few days’ time. Simple activities may tire you out as if you had just run a marathon and this fatigue may also be associated with difficulty falling or staying asleep.


3.      Dizziness or Lightheadedness

Everyone feels lightheaded from time to time, like when you haven’t eaten recently or if you stand up too fast. But, sudden unsteadiness that’s accompanied by chest discomfort or shortness of breath could be a sign of a heart attack. This occurs when your blood pressure drops because your heart cannot pump the way it should.


4.      Indigestion and/or nausea

The feelings of a heart attack might mimic what you’ve experienced with acid reflux, indigestion or an upset stomach. These symptoms may also include vomiting with no relief. If you find yourself reaching for Tums or Pepto Bismol and your symptoms don’t improve, or if you get worse with time, that may mean you are experiencing a heart attack.


5.      Pain in unusual places, like the stomach, jaw, neck or shoulder

Women are often more likely to experience pain-related heart attack symptoms in unusual places like their jaw, neck, shoulder or even stomach. When there is a problem in the heart, the nerves may fire to different areas in the body, resulting in pain that diffuses into different locations. If the origin of the pain in these locations is hard to pinpoint, get it checked out to be safe. Women may also experience pain in either arm – not just the left arm like many men report. This pain may be sudden and wake you up at night, as well.


6.      Shortness of breath and/or sweating, with or without chest pain

While shortness of breath and sweating are common symptoms women can experience after exercise, if you are experiencing these symptoms with no exertion, it may indicate signs of a heart attack. Shortness of breath may worsen over time and feel severe when laying down and improve a bit after sitting up again. Sweating may also occur with shortness of breath, with chest pain or sometimes even alone. Heart attack-related sweating may produce a clammy, cold sweat feeling that is difficult to distinguish from anxiety. However, it is always safer to get it checked out by a doctor.


Heart attack risk factors

There are a few risk factors that may put you at a greater risk to experience heart attacks. If you’re at risk, you should be extra vigilant about the signs and symptoms associated with heart attacks in women. Risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history of heart disease


Ways to reduce your risk and improve heart health

Lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Here are two ways to take control and keep your heart healthy for years to come.


Exercise and move more

Exercise helps you heart by improving your blood circulation, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and more. You should aim for at least 30 minutes, but ideally an hour, of physical activity and movement every day. This could be a trip to the gym, a workout class, or even just a long walk around the block. Even making small modifications to your daily routine, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can make a big impact on your heart health. And, if you stick to them, they can help you start a new, heart-healthy lifestyle.


Eat right

For heart-healthy food that tastes great, a good place to start is the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet has you consume more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins while cutting back on processed foods, sweets and red meat. D.A.S.H Diet foods include:

  • Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and oats
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes including kidney beans,
    lentils, sunflower seeds and almonds
  • Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes
  • Fruits such as avocado, bananas, dates and oranges
  • Low-fat milk and plain yogurt
  • Fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy


Trust Sun Health Wellness and live well

At Sun Health Wellness, we provide comprehensive help for many common health conditions, including heart attacks. A Wellness Advocate can guide you through the resources we provide, in addition to helping you locate community resources as well. Call (623)-471-9355 or contact us to set up your complimentary one-on-one consultation with a Wellness Advocate today.



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