2013 NATIONAL WEAR RED DAY®:
HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS IN WOMEN
February 1, 2013, is the tenth annual 2013 National Wear Red Day®, when heart disease awareness is brought to the fore by any person wearing red.
And I’m doing something I rarely do—I’m “lifting” today’s two-part post directly from the National Wear Red Day® web site —because I cannot improve on what they have done. Please visit their site for in depth information on heart disease in women.
SYMPTOMS OF A HEART ATTACK
Sweating. Pressure. Nausea. Jaw pain. Believe it or not, these are all symptoms of a heart attack in women. They are also symptoms that women often brush off as the flu, stress or simply feeling under the weather – which could put their lives in jeopardy.
“I really couldn’t believe this happened to me,” says survivor Amy Heinl. “I thought of myself as a healthy person, and was exercising when [my heart attack] happened.”
Whether it’s disbelief, lack of awareness or misdiagnosis, dismissing the symptoms of a heart attack can delay critical, life-saving actions. Being able to recognize the warning signs and act quickly, however, can save a life.
Causes of a heart attack in women
Heart attacks occur when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked by a buildup of plaque in coronary arteries. While the initial causation can often be pinned on the usual suspects – heavy smokers, people with high-stress lifestyles, or those who are excessively overweight – the not-so-usual suspects can also be at high risk for heart attack.
“I think we all get used to doing too much and learning to ignore minor ailments or fatigue because that is what women are programmed to do,” says survivor Rekisha Harris. But because heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, it is imperative that women learn the warning signs and symptoms, see a doctor regularly, and learn their family history.
Symptoms of a heart attack:
• Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. But it’s important to note that women are more likely to experience the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
What to do during a heart attack
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms:
• Do not wait to call for help. Dial 9-1-1, make sure to follow the operator’s instructions and get to a hospital right away.
• Do not drive yourself or have someone drive you to the hospital unless you have no other choice.
• Try to stay as calm as possible and take deep, slow breaths while you wait for the emergency responders.
Why it’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack
Women who consider themselves healthy often misdiagnose the symptoms of a heart attack because they don’t think it could happen to them. That is why it’s crucial to learn about heart disease and stroke, know your numbers, live a heart-healthy lifestyle and be aware of the risk factors of heart disease.
For more information about heart attacks in women, check out our article on Common Questions about Heart Attack Symptoms.
Taken from Symptoms of heart disease in women
GET YOUR HEART SCORE!
You’ve done research on heart disease. You know the basics about lifestyle, family history and daily habits. But do you know where you score in terms of heart health?
Survivor Amy Heinl admits she was a little clueless about whether she was healthy or not. And when she was diagnosed with heart disease, she was stunned.
“I really couldn’t believe this was happening to me,” she says. “My heart was the last thing on my mind (because) I thought of myself as a healthy person.”
Today, Amy urges women to be proactive about their health before it’s too late. After all, heart disease is preventable with the right information, education and care. Find out where you stand with the My Life Check.
Who should use this tool?
• Anyone age 20 or older who doesn’t already have heart disease or diabetes
• Anyone under 20 with a family member who had heart disease at an early age
What info do I need to use this tool?
• Blood pressure numbers
• Cholesterol levels
• Blood sugar levels
• Height, weight and waist circumference
• Knowledge of your eating and exercise habits
If you don’t have some of this information, don’t worry; the tool has sliders to allow you to estimate. Just remember that your assessment will be much more accurate if you use your own data. So schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to get tested.
Keep in mind that a positive score doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook. Even one risk factor that isn’t treated can lead to a higher risk later in life. And women like Amy, who worked out daily and competed in races prior to her diagnosis, are living proof that you can be fit and be affected by heart disease.
“I think I had to go through this struggle to wake up and realize that things in my life needed to change,” says Amy, who today shares her story because she’s very aware that heart disease can happen to anyone. “But,” she says, “You can survive it. I’m proof of that.”
Knowledge is power. Use our risk assessment tool and get your heart score today. GET YOUR HEART SCORE!