A woman’s heart

February 26, 2017

Increasingly, it is evident that women’s symptoms are not as predictable as men’s in matters of the heart. Because of the differences in how heart attacks may present in women as opposed to their male counterparts, it is important to learn all you can about heart attack warning signs and symptoms.

It is mistakenly thought that “chest pain” is the most important heart attack symptom in both women and men. However, fewer than 30 percent of women having a heart attack use the word “pain” in describing their symptoms. In fact, 43 percent of women report having no pain during any phase of their attack. Rather than the word “pain,” the word “discomfort” is more commonly used.

Each woman presents with different symptoms of a heart attack, and their symptoms are often milder than those of a man. “Angina” is the medical term for the feeling people get when their heart runs out of oxygen because of blocked arteries. Many women experiencing angina describe it as a feeling of “tightness” or “heaviness” or “pressure” in the chest, and some may attribute the feeling to a panic attack. It may also present as spells of unexplained shortness of breath, burning in the chest, gas in the chest, sweatiness or fatigue.

Milder symptoms of angina generally come on with physical exertion and are relieved in a few minutes with rest. More severe symptoms however, including those that are occurring more frequently or are lasting greater than 10 to 15 minutes, may signal the onset of a heart attack.

Not recognizing or perhaps discounting certain symptoms may cost a life, perhaps your own. Below is a list of symptoms most often experienced by women prior to and during a heart attack.

Women’s major symptoms leading up to a heart attack may include:

Unusual fatigue :70 percentSleep disturbances: 48 percentShortness of breath: 42 percentIndigestion: 39 percentAnxiety: 35 percent

Major symptoms during a heart attack may include:

Shortness of breath: 58 percentWeakness: 55 percentUnusual fatigue: 43 percentCold sweat: 39 percentDizziness: 39 percent

If you are having any of these symptoms, call 911. After calling for help, crush or chew an aspirin to prevent further blood clotting. When it comes to matters of the heart, always listen closely to the signs and symptoms of heart attacks and react as if your life depends on it. To learn more about heart attack symptoms or to reach Pocatello Cardiology, call 208-234-2001.

Dr. Benjamin Call is a board certified cardiologist. He practices at Pocatello Cardiology Associates.