Women Don’t Have Classic Symptoms of Heart Attack

Have you been experiencing sleep disturbances and unusual fatigue?   Unexpectedly, this may be a sign of a myocardial infarction (MI) (or more commonly known as a heart attack) for women.

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Women are less likely than men to have chest pain before a heart attack

According to an article published in Circulation, women have unrecognized heart attacks at a much greater rate then men and are more apt to be “mistakenly diagnosed and discharged from emergency departments.” Instead, patients are often mistakenly diagnosed with digestive problems!

Research from the National Institute of Health, less than 30% of women had chest pain prior to a heart attack and 43 percent had no chest pain at any time of the actual attack,

Because it is crucial to catch a heart attack as early as possible for treatment and lifesaving medicines to work, and the signs are not as obvious in females, women should be aware of associated symptoms occurring prior to an attack.

They include:

  • Anxiety (35%)
  • Unusual fatigue (70%)
  • Indigestion (39%)
  • Shortness of breath (42%)
  • Sleep disturbance (48%)

Further warning signs included indigestion, upper abdominal pressure, back pains, disturbances in sleep patterns, nausea, vomiting and weakness in the arms.

During the actual attack, additional symptoms include dizziness reported by 39% of women and a cold sweat (also 39%).

Women suffer nearly half of all heart attack deaths. The death rate of myocardial infarction between the ages of 40 and 60 are actually the same as breast cancer, but in the course of a lifespan, heart disease kills five times as many women as breast cancer.

If you believe that you are having a heart attack: 

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately
  • Calmly report that you are having a heart attack
  • Do not drive yourself to the emergency room
  • Chew on an aspirin as this lessens heart muscle damage
  • Do NOT delay as every minute counts!

The healthcare provider seeing you in the emergency room may feel that you are stable and can go home. (Note that in the initial phases, an EKG can be normal and more testing is warranted.)  Insist on being evaluated by a cardiologist before being released from the hospital and if there is any question of your diagnosis or condition, ask to be admitted overnight for observation and further evaluation.

Persistence pays off.  The life you save may be your own!