Robin Oliveira recently wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about how, even as a retired cardiac-care nurse, she did not know she was having a heart attack. On top of that, Robin writes, the paramedics who treated her, did not know she was having a heart attack.
Research shows that women display different cardiac symptoms from men. According to a 2016 statement from the American Heart Association, women are less likely than men to feel crushing chest pain from a heart attack. More of them experience:
- shortness of breath
- muscle weakness and fatigue
- profuse cold sweating
- atypical chest pain (or arm, jaw or back pain)
And when patients and medical providers neglect to realize what’s really happening, the consequences can be fatal.Robin Oliveira – Wall Street Journal
A 2017 study conducted by the American College of Cardiology, the WSJ reports, shows that women are twice as likely as men to die within 30 days of the heart attack. After a year, they are still 50% more likely. One major factor is because women take an average of 30 minutes longer than men to reach a hospital.
We misinterpret or write-off the symptoms.
One of the things I believe my self care journey has taught me is how to listen to my body and be more aware when it’s trying to communicate with me. A few years ago, I had indigestion that really got my attention and I wondered, “Is this a heart attack?” It was so bad, I went to Urgent Care and had an EKG to determine, no, it was not.
So I am very familiar with those few weird minutes when one has to decide, “Really? I’m going to go to Urgent Care? But what if it isn’t a heart attack? What a waste of time and money and oh, the embarrassment!”
First of all, I was glad I went. And no one made me feel bad about going. I am so glad I made my health a prioroity and took action.
Secondly, since then I have cleaned up my diet so my episodes of indigestion are much less. And I have educated myself with information about what symptoms to look for to determine if it is a heart attack or stroke.
How do you know if your symptoms are due to something less serious, like acid reflux? Location is a clue, says Karol E. Watson, MD, co-director of the UCLA Center for Cholesterol and Lipid Management.
A heart problem usually makes you hurt “on the left side of the upper chest,” Watson says. Any pain from the navel to the nose, pain you might describe as “discomfort,” or the kind that comes on with emotional or physical stress and goes away with rest, could be heart-related, she says.
Heart attack symptoms in women are sometimes more subtle. They can also be more widespread around the upper body, and there’s more of a chance for heavy sweating or stomach symptoms too, Watson says. “Women may also have unusual shortness of breath or unusual fatigue — like where you feel you can’t even move — more than men.”
Women and men have similar symptoms of stroke, according to WebMD.
A dear friend recently posted this on Facebook to remember symptoms of a stroke:
Armed with knowledge of my own body and the latest research, I plan to be ready should I, or someone I love, experience a heart attack or stroke.
I hope you do, too.
Read more about heart attacks and strokes at WebMD
For more ideas on how to self-care go to Fuzzy Red Socks