Women’s heart attack symptoms are confusing

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/ Friday, November 13, 2015

DEAR DR. ROACH: My question is about symptoms for women’s heart attacks. I have always heard that symptoms for women can be much different from men’s. Instead of the chest-clutching, sharp pain that men can have, I have read that women’s symptoms can be any of these: heartburn or indigestion; pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders, back, one or both arms; fatigue and troubled sleep; dizziness and nausea; or extreme anxiety. Are you KIDDING me? I am a healthy, active 63-year-old woman. I have had all of these symptoms at one time or another. If I acted every time I had one of these symptoms, I would be at the doctor’s office every day. How is one to know which symptoms to take seriously and act on immediately, and which to wait a few days to see if it is temporary?

Thank you for addressing this confusing issue. — J.

ANSWER: I have seen many letters similar to yours. The confusing problem is that it’s true: In women, heart attack symptoms and the symptoms of angina before a heart attack can include all of those vague symptoms. The same is true of men as well, although it’s more likely for women than for men to have symptoms other than the classic left-sided chest discomfort (people are much more likely to describe angina as “discomfort” or “pressure” than “pain”).

So your question is entirely valid: How do you know when to take common symptoms seriously? The first thing I would say is that the greater your risk for heart disease, the more seriously you should take any symptom. Age, family history of heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, lack of regular physical exercise and diabetes are among the most important risk factors.

The second thing I would say is to take new symptoms seriously. If you never get heartburn, for example, then heartburn at age 63 should prompt concern.

Third, context matters. Symptoms such as nausea or jaw pain that occur with exercise — even carrying a bag of groceries or walking up stairs — is definitely a reason to talk to your doctor.

Most women don’t know that heart disease remains their No. 1 killer, far outstripping breast cancer (or any cancer). Both women and men need to take even vague symptoms seriously, especially if the symptoms are new, exertional or if the person has several risk factors. As a primary-care doctor, I’d rather see my patient for her concerns that symptoms may be heart disease than see her in the ICU with a heart attack.

From http://health.heraldtribune.com/2015/11/13/womens-heart-attack-symptoms-are-confusing/

 

 

NINDS Know Stroke Campaign – Know Stroke Home

Each year in the United States, there are more than 795,000 strokes. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the country and causes more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease. Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65 and the risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.

The National Institutes of Health through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) developed the Know Stroke. Know the Signs. Act in Time. campaign to help educate the public about the symptoms of stroke and the importance of getting to the hospital quickly.

Read the entire article at NINDS Know Stroke Campaign – Know Stroke Home.

Prevent heart attack and stroke

Generic regular strength enteric coated 325mg ...

Generic regular strength enteric coated 325mg aspirin tablets. The orange tablets are imprinted in black with “L429”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This brief article will provide information and links to where additional information can be found to help you recognize and hopefully prevent a heart attack or stroke.

According to cardiologists, most heart attacks occur in the day, generally between 6 a.m. and noon. If you take an aspirin or a baby aspirin once a day, take it at night. Aspirin has a 24-hour “half-life” therefore, the aspirin would be strongest in your system when most heart attacks happen, in the wee hours of the morning.

A 2012 RetiredBrains survey of cardiologists provides the following information on the symptoms, warning signs and treatment for heart attack and stroke.

How to recognize heart attack symptoms

Chest discomfort that feels like pressure, or seems like a squeezing pain in the center of your chest. This pain generally lasts for more than a few minutes, but sometimes goes away and returns.

Pain and/or discomfort that extends beyond your chest to other parts of your upper body, such as one or both arms, back, neck, stomach, teeth, and even your jaw; shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort. Other symptoms include: cold sweats, nausea or vomiting, lightheadedness, indigestion, and fatigue.

What should I do when heart attack symptoms occur

If you or someone you are with experiences chest discomfort or other heart attack symptoms the first thing you should do is call 9-1-1.

Don’t wait to make the call. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital. Don’t drive the person having a heart attack to the hospital. Immediate treatment lessens heart damage and can save your life. Emergency medical services personnel can begin treatment in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and are trained to revive a person if his/her heart stops. Some people delay treatment because they are not sure they are really having a heart attack. Remember call 911 immediately as treatment given within an hour of the first heart attack symptoms saves lives and damage to the heart and substantially increases the chances of survival.

What should I do before paramedics arrive

If 911 has been called:

1. Try to keep the person calm, and have them sit or lie down.

2. If the person isn’t allergic to aspirin, have them chew and swallow an aspirin (It works faster when chewed than swallowed whole.)

3. If the person stops breathing, you or someone else who is qualified should perform CPR immediately. If you don’t know CPR, the 9-1-1 operator can assist you until the EMS personnel arrive.

For more information, check out the heart disease section on Mayo Clinic’s site and the warning signs of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest, compiled by the American Heart Association.

The information contained in this article should not be substituted for the advice of your physician. If you experience any symptoms or are concerned about your health in any way, you should immediately seek the advice of your physician.

From MarketWatch

Silent Heart Attacks: Symptoms You Might Not Recognize

Studies indicate around one out of every two women who suffer a heart attack feel no chest pain. They’re known as silent heart attacks. They’re often misdiagnosed or go untreated making them twice as deadly. Learn more in this video.

From Johns Hopkins

VIDEO: Heart disease is American’s No. 1 killer. Learn how you can stay protected – and what symptoms you shouldn’t be ignoring.

Featuring cardiologist Dr. Daniel Schwartz of Johns Hopkins Community Physicians and Jeanmarie Gallagher, Manager, Cardiac Rehabilitation of Suburban Hospital.