Heart Attacks in Women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It also increases the chances of a heart attack. By now, most people are aware of the familiar signs of an impending heart attack. Sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in the arms, and sweating are all indicators that a heart attack may be near.

However, women can experience additional symptoms, and some people -including doctors - often ignore these warnings. Men, women, and doctors must become familiar with the other heart attack indicators that occur in women in order to prevent a fatal cardiovascular episode.

Why is Heart Disease in Women Overlooked?

In recent years, awareness of heart health for women has been gaining attention. Since the signs of a heart attack that pertain to women are often ignored or misdiagnosed, the number of heart attacks in women has been increasing.

Heart disease is responsible for 15,000 deaths in women under the age of 55 each year, partly because studies suggest that younger women with heart attack symptoms are consistently disregarded more often than those in younger men.

So why do women have to endure such a medical bias? One reason is that sometimes a cardiac event is not recognized by an EKG (Electrocardiogram). An EKG is used to determine whether a patient should be diagnosed with a heart condition, and they aren’t always 100% accurate. When combining inaccurate EKG results with women suffering from unfamiliar signs of a heart attack, there is an increase in the chances of a misdiagnosis.

Another theory for gender bias in medicine is that the symptoms of a heart attack in women are sometimes linked to menstruation by a physician, also leading to a misdiagnosis. Some physicians also believe that some women tend to downplay their symptoms, believing them to be minor and therefore do not mention them. So what exactly are these bizarre warnings of a heart attack in women?

Signs of Heart Attacks in Women

While women under the age of 55 account for about 5 percent of all heart attack patients, spreading awareness about the unusual symptoms involved could help lower this statistic.

Symptoms of a heart attack in women can also be those that occur in men. However, additional signs specific to women include numbness in the jaw, nausea, back pain, soreness in the neck, pain in the left arm, fatigue, burning in the chest, and vomiting. Some of these symptoms can develop weeks ahead of an actual cardiac event. Therefore, it is even more difficult for physicians to provide these women with a proper diagnosis.

  • Tell Your Doctor Your Symptoms: Female patients should never be discreet with their symptoms. Physicians will not know what is going on until they have every aspect of every symptom. Subtle symptoms and bizarre warning signs are the body’s primary alert system. They are the ‘check engine’ lights that mean that it’s time for an inspection. When the need for a doctor visit arises, never leave out any symptom, no matter how minuscule. Also, knowing the additional signs for women, always ask the doctor if there is a chance for a heart attack.
  • Know Your Risk Factors: Preexisting conditions such as heart disease and diabetes increase the risk of a heart attack. Other conditions such as obesity high blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and an imbalance in blood sugar levels are also contributing factors. Regular checkups with a doctor can help identify these conditions before they worsen.
  •  Be Aware Of the Symptoms. Because the warning signs are different in women, it is even more critical that they understand the additional symptoms associated with heart attacks. Women are more likely to suffer from symptoms such as numbness of the body, particularly in the neck and jaw. Other symptoms common in women are dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, neck and back pain, and indigestion. Symptoms such as these may develop weeks ahead of a heart attack, so they must be taken seriously.  

Don't Wait if You Have Heart Attack Symptoms

When symptoms arise, it is a sign that the immune system has recognized an intruder. These symptoms, no matter how subtle, could be warning signs that something could be seriously wrong. When it comes to a heart attack, even the most subtle indications could be letting a woman know that time is of the essence. Therefore it is good practice to take every symptom seriously and seek medical attention immediately at the first sign of a cardiac event.

The Emergency Center is here for you if you fear you may be having a heart attack. Do not hesitate to come to The Emergency Center.  The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of Observation and offers 24/7 care with NO WAITING. Visit one of The Emergency Center’s convenient 24-hour locations in ArlingtonFort Worth, and San Antonio.