Since 2004, the American Heart Association (AHA) has celebrated the Go Red for Women Campaign in February to bring more awareness to the issue of heart health in women. While cardiovascular disease claims the lives of 500,000 women a year, most women do not realize this or dismiss heart problems as an “older man’s disease.” This national campaign and the Feb. 3 Wear Red Day helps raise awareness of heart disease as the number-one killer of women.
Most women do not realize that they possess the same risk as men are for having a heart attack. In fact, women account for nearly half of all heart attack deaths each year. Women and men respond differently to heart attacks, with women less likely than men to believe they are having a heart attack and more likely to delay in seeking emergency medical care. Additionally, women tend to be 10 years older than men when they have a heart attack and are more likely to have other conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure, making it all the more crucial that they get proper treatment fast.
It is important for women to know the warning signs for a heart attack. They include:
• Pressure, fullness, or squeezing pain in the center of the chest, which may spread to the neck, shoulder, or jaw
• Chest discomfort with light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath
Unlike men, women do not always feel chest pain, though, which is typically considered the hallmark symptom of a heart attack. Instead, women can also experience unusual, extreme fatigue or weakness, or upper abdominal discomfort that may feel like indigestion. In the weeks preceding an actual heart attack, some of these symptoms may appear as early warning signs.
If you experience these symptoms and end up in the emergency room, experts agree that women should suggest to medical staff they may be having a heart attack if the doctors and nurses do not reach that conclusion on their own because most medical professionals still do not recognize that women’s heart attack symptoms differ. Instead, symptoms may be mistaken for arthritis, a pulled muscle, indigestion, gastrointestinal problems, or even anxiety or hypochondria.
Knowing the signs of heart attacks in women equips and empowers you to take control of your health and well-being, so share this information with all the women in your life.