Many of us know that chest pain is a common sign of a heart attack, but did you know that women may experience other, less common symptoms? We talked to Jon Sherman, MD, FACC, FACP, FSCAI, an interventional cardiologist with Dignity Health Medical Group — Ventura County about signs and risks women should know.
“As with men, the most common sign of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort,” says Dr. Sherman. “For some women, no chest discomfort is present, but instead they will experience only profound fatigue, nausea, flu-like symptoms and/or shortness of breath.”
Signs of heart attack
Chest pain can feel like pressure or a burning sensation and can spread to the left shoulder and travel down the arm, elbow, wrist and/or hand. Dr. Sherman explains that the following symptoms can be more subtle and sometimes go unnoticed:
- Pain in the jaw, neck or back
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Profuse sweating
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Loss of consciousness
- Anxiety or a sense of impending doom
Early recognition saves lives
If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, especially if they last longer than a few minutes, call 9-1-1 immediately.
“Chewing and swallowing 325 mg of aspirin as soon as possible can help stop the blood from clotting temporarily while you seek further medical attention,” says Dr. Sherman. “Women who have a history of heart disease and have a nitroglycerin prescription, should use the nitroglycerin as soon as they start to have chest pain symptoms.”
Risk factors for heart failure/attack include:
- A family history of heart disease
- A personal history of heart disease
- Tobacco use
- Elevated cholesterol
Because heart conditions can develop with limited or no symptoms, women who have one or more of these risk factors should be sure to discuss their risk with their doctor. Seeking early medical attention can help prevent heart disease and lower your risk of a cardiovascular event.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor today if you suspect you may be experiencing new or unusual symptoms related to heart disease. Your doctor can also provide resources to help you maintain lifestyle modifications to lower your risk and live a heart-healthy life.