Ladies: It’s Time to be Smart About Our Hearts
Symptoms of a heart attack can be very different in women.
As women, we worry a lot about breast cancer. We should worry a lot more about heart disease, according to cardiac specialists at the University of Miami Health System.
Beginning by age 45, more women than men have high cholesterol. About 21 million women age 60 and older have high blood pressure, and women are more likely than men to die after a heart attack.
Women often discount heart attack symptoms or think they are due to other causes, especially around menopause, according to Dr. Maureen Lowery, director of the noninvasive cardiovascular laboratory at the University of Miami Health System.
“Cardiologists are becoming more attuned to women and their different symptoms, and are urging women to get more serious about decreasing cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes, obesity, smoking and lack of exercise.”
Heart attack symptoms may be quite different for us than our male counterparts.
Men typically have suffocating chest pains, but symptoms in women may be more subtle and ignored.
Some of these include:
- Heavy perspiration: Many women suffering a heart attack start perspiring profusely but may mistake it as a hot flash.
- Shortness of breath: Be wary of breathlessness that comes on suddenly without warning or exertion.
- Abdominal pain: This is often blamed on “something I ate”.
- Sharp upper body pain: While men may feel crushing pain in their chest during a heart attack, women have described sharp shooting pains in the upper body, involving the neck, upper arms, or jaw.
- Chest pain: While chest pain may be less intense for women, it can still occur. Many describe it as a tight discomfort across the entire chest.
- Rapid heart rate: A racing heartbeat accompanied by feelings of intense anxiety and sweating in a non-stressful situation may seem like an anxiety attack, but it may be a heart attack.
- Disrupted sleep: Some women who’ve suffered a heart attack recall waking up in the middle of a deep sleep unable to catch their breath. This is due to a heart attack compressing the upper airway.
Cardiac specialists in South Florida are working to make sure women in the community and other physicians are more attuned to what makes us special — as far as our hearts go.
Learn more about your risk of heart disease from the CDC’s Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet.
Written by a staff writer at UHealth.