100 lb. Club - Do you know the signs of a heart attack in a woman?

12-13-2006, 12:34 AM
I read this in the LA Times yesterday and I realized I didn't know what the symptoms of a heart attack were in a woman versus a man. I hope no one here ever has to find out, but given that winter is heart attack season (a study of deaths in LA county found the highest number of heart attacks around January 1), this is good to know:

Los Angeles Times (Melissa Healy), 12/11/06: "Although heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, it has been recognized less often by doctors and patients because of a long-held belief that women are protected from heart disease by their hormones.

They are up to a point. But after menopause, a woman's risk of having a heart attack goes up each year, and researchers are finding that for women, many of heart attack's "classic symptoms," as defined by men's experiences, just don't fit.

Women, in short, experience heart disease and heart attack differently than men. A man experiencing a heart attack will often complain of crushing pressure in his chest and pain radiating down his left arm. Although a woman having a heart attack may describe the same thing, many women instead describe a sharp pain in the chest or mid-back. Often, extreme fatigue the result of a buildup of fluid in the lungs is a woman's principal complaint. And swelling in the feet, ankles or legs can be a key sign of impending heart attack for a woman. Breathlessness, dizziness and shortness of breath are indicators of heart attack commonly described by women.

Typically, a woman's reaction to these symptoms is also different than a man's. A 2006 study of Irish women found that women took five times longer than men an average of 14 hours after symptoms began to go to an emergency room in response to complaints that ended up being diagnosed as a heart attack. And U.S. studies have found that women not only take longer to go to a hospital with heart complaints, but they also wait longer to be assessed and treated.

Experts recommend taking preventive action to avoid heart attacks: Don't smoke, or if you do, stop; get blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and get them treated if they are too high; exercise regularly; and avoid becoming overweight. In addition, women should be attentive to their bodies and what's normal for them. If their legs seem more puffy than usual, fatigue is nearly overwhelming or if discomfort or pain in the upper body is out of the ordinary, they should seek help."

Stay healthy!

12-13-2006, 12:37 AM
C.C. - thanks for the post. It's sobering and motivating. A clear reminder of the risks associated with the extra weight I'm carrying! Tomorrow I will exercise!

12-13-2006, 03:41 AM
Thanks for the great info. It's so important that we keep informed and pay attention to our bodies. My dad died 7 years ago this month because of a massive heart attack. He'd been having symptoms that entire day, but ignored them until it was too late. Don't ignore the signs that your body tries to send you.

12-13-2006, 07:50 AM
In our emergency dept we cardiac check any women in the right age range if they report pain anywhere from their hip bones to their nose.

12-13-2006, 10:22 AM
Both of my parents died of heart problems. I had no idea the symptoms could be so different! Thank you so much for posting this!

12-14-2006, 10:06 AM
I've been going through some heart testing lately. After reading this, I recognized many of my symptoms listed here.

My partner took me to the ER last night. They did a full cardiac workup--blood, chest exray, EKG--all normal. (The discharge nurse gave me some patient literature on "a-typical chest pain" and one on "hypertension". I don't know why the doctor would order that--my BP was fine, if not low.) I was wheezing a bit, so I was put on oxygen and given a breathing treatment.

Don't get me wrong--I'm glad they didn't find anything. I'm just baffled that I would have so many symptoms and have nothing wrong.

12-14-2006, 11:46 AM
Wow Jen, I'm so sorry you had yet another scare. I am so glad it turned out to be nothing. You were very wise to have it checked out.

CC, thanks for the post, we can never be reminded too many times about the symptoms of a heart attack and what we can do to PREVENT heart disease.

12-14-2006, 02:02 PM
Aw, Jen, I'm sorry you're not feeliig well, but I'm so glad you had it checked out. It's so much better to be safe than sorry! Take care of yourself and I hope you feel better really really soon!

12-14-2006, 02:19 PM
I have no proof of this ... I just think so .... symptoms without clinical findings are warning signs. Take care of yourself and work away at those 'contributing factors'.

12-14-2006, 02:48 PM
I believe you Susan! With you being in the healthcare profession and all....and I am going to KICK BUTT on my "contributing factors"!!

12-14-2006, 03:36 PM
Go Jen Go Jen .... I have this picture of you in my head .... you're always smiling just like your avatar.

12-15-2006, 07:55 PM
Great article! Thanx so much for posting!