When we think of somebody having a heart attack, we tend to think of a man suddenly clutching his chest in pain and falling to the ground – just like in the movies. But in reality, heart attacks are not just a “male” problem.
Did you know that cardiovascular disease (heart, stroke and blood vessel disease) is the number one killer of women globally? It’s not breast cancer or other diseases you might associate with being a woman.
A heart attack (or myocardial infarction) occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked for some reason. The heart muscles affected don’t get enough oxygen and will begin to die if the blood flow isn’t restored fast enough.
Amusing yet sobering video of actress Elizabeth Banks portraying a woman having a heart attack.
Women's heart attack symptoms can differ from men's
Heart attack symptoms in women can actually be a bit different from those in men, and women tend to ignore the symptoms because they can be quite subtle.
While chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack, some women may just have a feeling of tightness, pressure or discomfort in their chest.
So, if you’re a woman, how do you know if you are having a heart attack?
6 signs of heart attack in women:
1. Pain/tightness in chest
A common symptom is a feeling of tightness, pressure or discomfort in your chest. Chest discomfort is caused by blockages within the main heart arteries. Women also tend to have blockages in the small arteries coming off the heart (known as microvascular coronary disease). For this reason, chest discomfort may not be the worst, or most noticeable, symptom in women. (NZ Heart Foundation)
2. Shortness of breath
You may feel like you can’t breathe properly or you can’t get enough air into your lungs. Some women may even experience difficulty breathing a few weeks before having a heart attack.
3. Nausea/vomiting or sweating
You may feel really queasy or actually vomit. You may also feel sweaty and clammy.
You may feel light-headed, dizzy or not quite “with it”.
5. Pain in other parts of your body
You may feel pain or pressure in your jaw, neck, arm, lower or upper back, belly or torso. You may feel like you have indigestion or reflux. Remember pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong.
6. Unusual fatigue/weakness
You may suddenly feel very tired or very weak.
These symptoms can occur with or without chest discomfort.
|No two heart attacks are the same. Not all these symptoms may occur. If you are experiencing some of these, call 111 immediately.|
Heart attacks can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death. A cardiac arrest happens when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, causing loss of consciousness and breathing and the heart stops.
Remember, while your symptoms may turn out to be harmless, they may also be the result of a heart attack.
For more information visit the Heart Foundation website