Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Little boys are made of frogs and snails and puppy dogs tails. Even from the start, little boys and little girls are different. As we grow into adults those differences continue, including how our bodies react to a heart attack.
Heart attack symptoms displayed by men and women are considerably different. When a woman has a heart attack she may experience nausea, overwhelming fatigue and dizziness. Her warning signs of an impending heart attack could include shortness of breath, vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Because these symptoms are often chalked up to stress, women have reported that they have a harder time getting their doctors to recognize these early warning signs. Women also wait longer before seeking medical care. With a heart attack, minutes matter. Seeking help sooner and being proactive about your care can help save heart muscle.
- Men tend to experience the typical symptoms of a heart attack such as chest tightness, arm pain and shortness of breath. Warning signs common to both men and women include discomfort in the chest or other area of the upper body, shortness of breath, light-headedness and breaking out in a cold sweat.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is especially true for women and heart disease. Admittedly, some heart disease risk factors are beyond our control, such as family history and age. After menopause, a woman’s chance of developing heart disease soars because her body’s production of estrogen drops. But you can take an active role in preventing cardiovascular disease by managing your risk factors.
- Don’t smoke.
- Lower your cholesterol.
- Maintain a normal weight.
- Manage your diabetes, if you have the condition.
Having even one of the risk factors for heart disease can be dangerous. But having multiple risks is even more serious because risk factors tend to intensify the effects of others and increase your chances of developing a heart condition.
If your doctor has prescribed medications, be sure to take them exactly as advised. Tell your doctor if you experience any unpleasant side effects. You may be able to adjust the dosage or change to another medicine. Severe chest pain or blood vessel blockages may be surgically treated by coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander applies when women seek treatment for heart attacks. Just as for men, women should call 9-1-1 if experiencing symptoms that seem to be life-threatening. Ask for tests that can show if you are having a heart attack and request clot-busting drugs used to stop a heart attack that are best administered within the first hour after a heart attack starts.
Heart disease is not just for men. About one woman dies every minute from cardiovascular disease and 64 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease did not have any previous symptoms. For more information about women and heart disease, check with your doctor or visit the Women’s Heart Foundation website at http://www.womensheartfoundation.org. Better safe than sorry.
For a Physician Referral, call North Shore Medical Center at 1-800-984-3434.