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EMS Corner
Younger Women Often
Ignore Signs of
Heart Attack

A new study reveals younger women may ignore early signs of a heart attack.

The finding could help explain why younger women have higher rates of death from heart attacks than men in their age group. “Young women with multiple risk factors and a strong family history of cardiac disease should not assume they are too young to have a heart attack.” Participants in our study said they were concerned about initiating a false alarm in case their symptoms were due to something other than a heart attack.

Yale researchers interviewed women aged 30 to 55 who survived a heart attack. The study authors found that many women didn’t pay attention to early warning signs such as pain and dizziness. The interviews revealed that wide variations in the type of initial heart attack symptoms, and factors such as work and family, sometimes influenced the women’s decisions to seek emergency medical care.

Not all of the women received an immediate or complete assessment of their symptoms or a formal diagnosis of heart attack, according to the study published February 24th, 2015 in the Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. And some women said they did not take steps to prevent heart disease.

Identifying strategies to help women recognize symptoms and encourage them to seek prompt care without stigma or perceived judgment may be critical for young women at increased risk for heart disease the study suggested.

The findings show the need to better educate women about early symptoms of heart attack, and to change the way that women and medical teams respond to such symptoms. More than 15,000 women younger than 55 die from heart disease in the United States each year, making it a leading cause of death in that age group, the researchers noted.

Six Symptoms of Women’s
Heart Attacks

Women don’t always get the same classic heart attack symptoms as men, such as crushing chest pain that radiates down one arm. Those heart attack symptoms can certainly happen to women, but many experience vague or even “silent” symptoms that they may miss.

These six heart attack symptoms are common in women.

1. Chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom, but some women may experience it differently than men. It may feel like a squeezing or fullness, and the pain can be anywhere in the chest, not just the left side. It’s “truly uncomfortable” during a heart attack, it feels like a vise being tightened.

2. Pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw. This type of pain is more common in women than in men. It may confuse women who expect their pain to be focused on their chest and left arm, not their back and jaw. The pain can be gradual or sudden, and it may wax and wane before becoming intense. If you’re asleep it may wake you up. You should report any “not typical or unexplained” symptoms in any part of your body above your waist to your doctor.

3. Stomach pain. Sometimes people mistake stomach pain that signals a heart attack with heartburn, the flu, or a stomach ulcer. Other times, women experience severe abdominal pressure that feels like an elephant sitting on your stomach.

4. Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. If you’re having trouble breathing for no apparent reason, you could be having a heart attack, especially if you’re also having one or more other symptoms. It can feel like you have run a marathon, but you didn’t make a move.

5. Sweating. Breaking out in a nervous, cold sweat is common among women who are having a heart attack. It will feel more like stress-related sweating than perspiration from exercising or spending time outside in the heat. Get it checked out if you don’t typically sweat like that and there is no other reason for it, such as heat or hot flashes.

6. Fatigue. Some women who have heart attacks feel extremely tired, even if they’ve been sitting still for a while or haven’t moved much. Patients often complain of a “tiredness in the chest”, they say that they can’t do simple activities, like walk to the bathroom.

Not everyone gets all of those symptoms. If you have chest pain/discomfort, especially if you also have one or more of the other signs, call 911 immediately.

Article courtesy of WebMD.

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