by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
You may be surprised to learn that when it comes to women and heart attacks, it is extremely easy to overlook or miss the signs and symptoms of a heart attack because they show up in different ways in women than they do in men. It is important for women to understand that the signs and symptoms of a heart attack are different for them.
It is very important that if any of the below listed warning signs start to appear that you should seek immediate medical attention. It could mean life or death, which is why I feel that it is vitally important for all women to be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack.
Symptoms of heart attacks in women
In women, almost all heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Below are common symptoms of a heart attack in women:
- Shortness of breath may occur with or without chest discomfort
- Nausea and light-headedness
- Flu-like symptoms, including chills and cold sweats
- Heart palpitations
- Chest discomfort (angina): pain, tightness or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back, this is seen less often in women than men
- Discomfort in other areas, including pain or discomfort in: one or both arms (especially the left arm), the back, between the shoulder blades, neck, jaw or stomach – this is the most common set of symptoms we see
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Extreme fatigue
Strokes are as well-known as heart attacks, but tend to come on unexpectedly. Allow me to share some of the signs and symptoms that a stroke may be occurring:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
I feel that is worth noting that in certain women, symptoms such as palpitations, chills, or faintness could actually be symptoms of perimenopause. If you happen to be experiencing any of these symptoms, please see your doctor immediately to rule out a heart attack. It could save your life.
Symptoms of inflammation
Heart disease often occurs together with inflammation. Monitoring any inflammation indicators you might have is a helpful way to assess your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Below are some of the symptoms to take into consideration (for more information read our articles on inflammation):
- Elevated levels of CRP, homocysteine, LDL or triglycerides
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance or diabetes
- Joint pain or arthritis
- GI distress, bloating, constipation/diarrhea
- Food and other allergies/sensitivities
- Chronic respiratory difficulties, asthma, or bronchitis
- Dry, itchy skin, rash, psoriasis or eczema
- Weight gain/obesity
- Fever or chronic infection
- Other autoimmune diseases
- Achiness all over
- Digestive issues, bloating, gas, chronic abdominal discomfort
To learn more about the underlying causes of heart disease, see our articles about risk factors for heart disease.