A Woman’s Heart
Benjamin Call, M.D.
Increasingly, it is evident that women’s symptoms are not as predictable as men’s in matters of the heart. Each woman may present with different symptoms of heart disease, and their symptoms are often milder than those of a man. Because of these differences, it is important to learn all you can about the signs and symptoms of heart disease in women.
It is mistakenly thought that chest pain is the most important heart attack symptom in both women and men. However, fewer than 30 percent of women having a heart attack use the word ‘pain’ in describing their symptoms. In fact, 43 percent of women report having no pain during any phase of their attack. Rather than the word pain, the word discomfort is more commonly used.
Angina is the medical term for the early symptom people get when their heart runs out of oxygen due to blocked arteries. Symptoms of angina generally come on with moderate physical exertion, and are relieved in a few minutes with rest. Many women describe angina as a feeling of tightness or heaviness or pressure in the chest, and some may attribute the feeling to a panic attack or anxiety. It may also present as spells of unexplained shortness of breath, burning in the chest, gas in the chest, sweatiness or fatigue.
Symptoms of angina are generally quite stable. However, if angina starts becoming more intense or more frequent, lasting longer than 20-30 minutes, or coming on with minimal or no exertion, it may be signaling the onset of a heart attack.
Not recognizing or perhaps discounting certain symptoms may cost a life, perhaps your own. Below is a list of symptoms most often experienced by women leading up to and during a heart attack.
Women’s major symptoms leading up to a heart attack may include:
- Unusual fatigue – 70%
- Sleep disturbances – 48%
- Shortness of breath – 42%
- Indigestion – 39%
- Anxiety – 35 %
Women’s major symptoms during a heart attack may include:
- Shortness of breath – 58%
- Weakness – 55 %
- Unusual fatigue – 43%
- Cold sweat – 39%
- Dizziness – 39%
If you are having these symptoms, call 911. After calling for help, crush or chew an aspirin to prevent further blood clotting. When it comes to matters of the heart, always watch closely for the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, and react as if your life depended on it. To learn more about heart attack symptoms or to reach Pocatello Cardiology, call 208-239-3899.
Dr. Benjamin Call is a board certified cardiologist. He practices at Portneuf Cardiology.