by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
For so many women, it is easy to miss the signs of a heart attack, and that’s because the symptoms that women have are very different from men. They are often misdiagnosed, especially the top four symptoms, such as heartburn and digestive disorders. Understanding that immediate action is needed if a heart attack occurs, can mean the difference between whether a woman lives or dies, making it that much more compelling to be aware of the warning signs.
Symptoms of a heart attack in women
For most people the symptoms of a heart attack start slowly with mild discomfort or pain. Below are the symptoms women tend to experience when having a heart attack.
- Shortness of breath. This may occur with or without chest discomfort.
- Nausea and light-headedness.
- Flu-like symptoms, including chills and cold sweats.
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat.
- Chest discomfort ( also known as angina) – pain, tightness or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts more than just a few minutes, or that comes and goes.
- Discomfort or a heaviness in other areas, including a pain or discomfort in one or both arms (especially the left arm), in the back, in the upper back between the shoulder blades, in the neck, and/or in the jaw or stomach.
- Heartburn or indigestion.
- Extreme fatigue, a sense of not being able to have the energy to do normal activities.
Symptoms of stroke in women
Strokes are not nearly as common as heart attacks, but they can – without any warning signs – occur very quickly. Following are some of the signs that a stroke may be occurring:
- A very sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs, generally it is seen on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or comprehending even simple conversation.
- Sudden difficulty with sight in one or both eyes.
- Sudden difficulty with walking, dizziness with movement, a severe loss of balance or coordination.
- A very sudden, intense headache with no obvious reason.
One of the difficulties is that some of the symptoms of a heart attack or heart problems such as palpitations, dizziness, and feeling faint are also seen by some in perimenopause. It is important to understand that any symptoms that may be related to your heart health should be evaluated by your healthcare practitioner first.
Symptoms of inflammation
The most recent scientific information is showing that inflammation and heart disease go hand in hand. Closely monitoring any and all symptoms of inflammation is a very important preventive tool to help asses your risk and also help you prevent future issues with your heart. Here are some of the tests to look which indicate a risk in the future. For more information, read our multiple articles on inflammation.
- Elevated levels of HS-CRP, homocysteine
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance diagnosed with an elevated fasting or 2hr pp insulin
- Diabetes, diagnosed with elevated fasting blood sugars or elevated Hgb A1C
- Joint pain or diagnosis of arthritis
- Chronic headaches
- GI distress, bloating, constipation/diarrhea, gas/ IBS, Chrohns or colitis, diverticulitis
- Food and other allergies/sensitivities
- Chronic respiratory difficulties, asthma, or bronchitis
- Dry skin, itchy skin, rashes, psoriasis or eczema
- Weight gain/obesity as this is now known to increase inflammation
- Fever or chronic infection
- Other autoimmune diseases
- Elevated fibrinogen
- High ferritin levels
- Elevated Lp(a)