A heart attack is a life-threatening event caused by disruption of blood flow to the heart. Knowing the female symptoms of a heart attack can help a person see a doctor sooner, which can save their life. Women are less likely to survive their first heart attack than men. This can be explained by the fact that the symptoms differ according to gender. Women are more likely to have a “silent” heart attack or experience unusual symptoms. Additionally, female biology creates unique risk factors for heart attack, as certain diseases that increase risk, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), are not present in male biology.
Symptoms of heart attack in women
Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack. Many people expect a heart attack to come on suddenly. But research suggests that women experience symptoms for several weeks before a heart attack. A study published in 2003 on 515 women who suffered a heart attack, reports that 80% of women had at least 1 symptom at least 4 weeks before their heart attack. Symptoms can be constant or come and go, and they can also disrupt sleep. It is vital for a woman experiencing any of these symptoms to seek help immediately, as heart attacks can be fatal whether the symptoms are mild or severe.
Here are eight of the symptoms of a possible heart attack:
1. Chest pain
The most common symptom of a heart attack, in both men and women, is chest pain or discomfort. It can be described as follows:
However, women can suffer a heart attack without feeling any discomfort in the chest.
Some 29.7% of women surveyed in the 2003 study experienced chest discomfort in the weeks leading up to the attack. Also, 57% of them experienced chest pain during the heart attack.
2. Extreme or unusual fatigue
Unusual fatigue is often reported in the weeks before a heart attack. Fatigue is also felt just before the event occurs. Even simple activities that don’t require a lot of effort can lead to feelings of exhaustion.
Feeling weak or shaky is a common acute symptom of heart attack in women. This weakness or tremors may be accompanied by:
– feeling of dizziness
4. Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath or heavy breathing without effort, especially if accompanied by fatigue or chest pain, may suggest heart problems. Some women may feel short of breath when lying down, with the symptom easing when they sit upright.
Excessive sweating without a normal cause is another common symptom of heart attack in women. Feeling cold and clammy can also be an indicator of heart problems.
6. Pain in the upper body
It is usually non-specific pain that cannot be attributed to a particular muscle or joint in the upper body. Areas that may be affected include:
the upper back or one of the arms
The pain may start in one area and gradually spread to others, or it may come on suddenly.
7. Sleep Disorders
Difficulty falling asleep and unusual awakenings can be problems before a heart attack. Nearly half of the women in the 2003 study reported sleep problems in the weeks leading up to their heart attack.
These disturbances may involve:
– difficulty falling asleep
– unusual awakenings during the night
– feeling tired despite getting enough sleep
8. Stomach problems
Some women may feel pain or pressure in the stomach before a heart attack. Other digestive issues associated with a possible heart attack may include:
Post-menopausal heart attack
The risk of heart attack increases due to the decline in estrogen levels after menopause. Symptoms of post menopausal heart attack are as follows
– pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
– fast or irregular heartbeats
– severe chest pain
– sweating without activity
Risk factors for a heart attack in women
The risk factors for heart attack in women are:
Age: People aged 55 or over are at greater risk of heart attack. This may be because hormones provide some protection against heart disease before menopause.
Family history: People whose male relative had a heart attack before age 55, or whose female relative had one before age 65, are considered to have a family history. families of heart attacks and are at increased risk.
Health status: Certain markers, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, increase the risk of heart attack in both men and women.
Medical conditions: People with certain medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders, are more likely to experience a heart attack. Conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS, or a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy also increase the risk.
Lifestyle choices: Using tobacco or stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines, a sedentary lifestyle, or high stress levels increase the risk of heart attack.
When to consult a doctor
It is recommended that all women over the age of 40 consult their doctor regularly. This makes it possible to quickly identify risk factors in order to treat them. Early intervention reduces the risk of heart attack.
Anyone who notices the warning signs of a heart attack, such as the following, should seek medical attention immediately:
– unusual tiredness
– shortness of breath
– pain in the upper body
The doctor will note symptoms, check blood pressure and heart rate, and may order blood tests or an electrocardiogram (ECG) to see the heart’s electrical activity.
Anyone who suspects symptoms of a heart attack should call emergency services immediately. According to a 2012 survey, only 65% of women would call emergency services if they suspected a heart attack.
Emergency treatment can save lives. Anyone noticing the following symptoms should call an ambulance immediately, especially if the signs are present for 5 minutes or more:
chest pain or discomfort
pain in the upper part of the body, especially the arms, back, neck, jaw, or shoulder
indigestion or heartburn
fast or irregular heartbeat
shortness of breath
Here are some tips for better heart health:
Get regular checkups with your doctor.
Take steps to manage other health issues, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
stop smoking and avoid tobacco in all its forms. The risk of heart disease drops by 50% just 12 months after quitting smoking.
Do not use illegal drugs, especially stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines.
Lose weight if overweight.
Do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity, such as walking, each day.
Eat a balanced diet and consult a dietitian if necessary for dietary advice.