Could You Be Having a Heart Attack?

By on February 1, 2012

By Barbara Hales, M.D. –

Have you been experiencing sleep disturbances and unusual fatigue? Surprisingly, this may be signaling a myocardial infarction (MI) (or more commonly known as a heart attack) if you are a woman.

According to studies done by the National Institute of Health, less than 30% of women had chest pain prior to a heart attack and 43 percent had no chest pain at any time of the actual attack, though doctors still think of chest pain as a hallmark symptom in both men and women. Many healthcare providers are first discovering that heart attack symptoms in women can be very different than in a man.

According to an article published in Circulation, women have unrecognized heart attacks at a much greater rate then men and are more apt to be “mistakenly diagnosed and discharged from emergency departments”. Instead, patients are often mistakenly diagnosed with digestive problems.

Cardiac disease is the number one killer in this country. There are half a million heart attack deaths in the United States annually and half of those patients die before arriving at the hospital. Many of these deaths could have been prevented, had treatment been sought immediately.

Because it is crucial to catch an MI as early as possible for treatment and lifesaving medicines to work, and the signs are not as obvious in females, women should be aware of associated symptoms occurring prior to an attack.

They include:

  • Anxiety (35%)
  • Indigestion (39%)
  • Shortness of breath (42%)
  • Sleep disturbance (48%)
  • Unusual fatigue (70%)

Additional warning signs included indigestion, upper abdominal pressure, back pains, disturbances in sleep patterns, nausea, vomiting and weakness in the arms.

Surprisingly, the NIH found that 95% of women recognized that their symptoms were new at least a month before the heart attack occurred, despite being unaware of the cause.

During the actual attack, additional symptoms include dizziness reported by 39% of women and a cold sweat (also 39%).

Women suffer nearly half of all heart attack deaths. The death rate of myocardial infarction between the ages of 40 and 60 are actually equivalent to breast cancer but in the course of a lifespan, heart disease kills five times as many women as breast cancer.

Positive Action You Can Take

Here is a checklist of conditions that you can try to correct now that the New Year is upon us to place yourself at a lower risk for heart disease:

  1. Lack of Exercise
  2. Smoking
  3. Exposure to second-hand smoke
  4. Elevated lipids or HDL (the good type) less than 35 mg/dL
  5. High Blood pressure
  6. Overweight (greater than 20 pounds)

Make a list of any unusual symptoms and if it lasts any length of time, seek medical attention right away.

Be aware in which of your local hospitals is angioplasty done (surgery to open a blocked artery). Your life may depend upon this, as the blocked artery may need to be opened within 90 minutes of symptoms for survival. This procedure is not done in all facilities.

If you believe that you are having a heart attack:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately
  • Calmly report that you are having a heart attack
  • Do not drive yourself to the emergency room
  • Chew on an aspirin as this lessens heart muscle damage
  • Do NOT delay as every minute counts!

The healthcare provider seeing you in the emergency room may feel that you are stable and can go home. (Note that in the initial phases, an EKG can be normal and more testing is warranted.) Insist on being evaluated by a cardiologist before being released from the hospital and if there is any question of your diagnosis or condition, ask to be admitted overnight for observation and further evaluation.

Persistence pays off.  The life you save may be your own!

 

Barbara Hales, M.D., an author and speaker, is a specialist in the Medical and Health market, helping people improve their health while helping others to expand into the writing and speaking market. After working as a physician for thirty years, she turned her focus to marketing and writing, publishing the monthly newsletter “The Medical Strategist”. Her book “Power to the Patient: The Medical Strategist” can be found on Amazon.com. Dr. Hales also discusses health issues at:  http://www.TheMedicalStrategist.com.

About Barbara Hales M.D

Barbara Hales, M.D., an author and speaker, is a specialist in the Medical and Health market, helping people improve their health while helping others to expand into the writing and speaking market. After working as a physician for thirty years, she turned her focus to marketing and writing, publishing the monthly newsletter “The Medical Strategist”. Her book “Power to the Patient: The Medical Strategist” can be found on Amazon.com. Dr. Hales also discusses health issues at: http://www.TheMedicalStrategist.com.

5 Comments

  1. MaryAnn Shank

    February 1, 2012 at 11:50 am

    The symptoms that are listed are so common that it would be difficult to isolate them as MI. We all have anxiety, indigestion, etc., at some point. This is Life. Is there any combination of symptoms that may point to heart trouble more accurately? or more quickly? I think like most women I have an aversion to running to the doctor with every pain, but we do want to catch severe illnesses before it is truly too late. Thank you.

  2. Sally McCaughrin

    February 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    The symptoms are vastly different than those for men. However, so little is published or reported on these different symptoms. I’ll pass this on to all the women on my contact list!

    And they ARE common, to a lot of women. But I can’t help but think that they would be unusually severe, and more than one symptom occurring at the same time might raise a flag.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Barbara Hales

    February 2, 2012 at 4:22 am

    The shortness of breath, pressure and extreme fatigue are not symptoms that “we experience from time to time”. If you do, then a physical examination by your physician or healthcare provider may be in order.
    While we all suffer from anxiety occasionally, it is not typical to have pressure in the chest or back and weakness increasing in intensity.

    In any case this article is to make you aware of the possibility that having these symptoms can be a warning of more serious problems which should not be ignored. Often one gets a signal from her body that there is something remiss but we don’t listen to that voice.

  4. [email protected] Highway

    February 3, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Excellent piece that brings great information to the forefront. In nursing school we were also taught that you most probably will have a feeling of foreboding, that something is just not right. That’s your clue; make sure you check things out.
    Better to be fine at the ER, than to have an MI at home.

    [email protected] Highway

  5. lisa

    February 5, 2012 at 2:29 am

    i have all these most of the time – i have major fibromyalgia and panic. it grinds my gears that in this day and time
    womens heart health a and health in general – is 2nd rate to men – ridiculous disparity – finally using female lab rats
    a bit late… politics as usual.

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Could You Be Having a Heart Attack?