I Was Scared. ‘Was that a Heart Attack?’ Signs May Be Different for Women
Last year, I was going through some emotional challenges. Perhaps you can relate. 2020 was difficult in many ways.
But it wasn't just emotional. During the course of the quarantine, I'd been less physically active. I'd not been eating as well. And frankly, I felt overwhelmed and stressed out for various reasons.
One afternoon, I felt at my wit's end and got really, really upset about something. I felt my chest (and jaw) tighten. My heart felt like it was beating much too fast, and I felt a bit of dizziness come over me. It was scary. I could feel the blood pumping in my veins. I was shaking and felt sick at my stomach.
I was scared. Really scared. Was I having a heart attack? It didn't seem likely. I didn't think I was in a high-risk group. But here I was...asking me myself a truly frightening question.
Thankfully, it was NOT. It seems I was having a bit of a panic attack. I hope you never experience either.
But honestly, I'm glad in one way that I had this question flitter like a nightmare through my mind. Because, the signs of a heart attack can look a bit different for women.
Few things are as serious as heart attack. It's important to know the warning signs so that you can get the help you need as soon as possible. Because, when it comes to heart attacks, every beat counts.
What exactly is a heart attack? The Mayo Clinic's website states "a heart attack occurs when an artery supplying your heart with blood and oxygen becomes blocked. Fatty deposits build up over time, forming plaques in your heart's arteries. If a plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form and block your arteries, causing a heart attack."
If not treated in time, the parts of your heart that are affected will begin to die.
Interestingly the warning signs of a heart attack can be different in women. And in the Heart & Stroke '2018 Heart Report,' it says that "early signs of a heart attack are missed in 78% of women, and their heart attacks are more fatal."
But why are the early signs for women so commonly missed? Partly due to the fact that most of the research done on heart health has been focused on men. And so, when women get EKG's and blood tests, the results are often being compared to markers for men's heart health. Sometimes women are diagnosed as having a severe case of heartburn or even anxiety.
And so it imperative to know the warning signs of a heart attack--in both men and women. But because the signs can vary from the traditional signs we commonly read about, it's important to be vigilant.
Some of the signs are the same for both men and women. For example, discomfort in the chest or upper body, sweating, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or nausea.
But other signs that specifically apply to women? They may experience extreme fatigue, pressure in the upper back, pain or even significant pressure in the lower chest, upper abdomen, and even in the jaw. They may arise unaccompanied by that signature crushing chest pain and may arise weeks before a potential heart attack occurs.
If you or a woman you love experiences these symptoms, the Mayo Clinic says it's a good idea to take 160 milligrams of aspirin and pick up the phone to call for emergency help.