Heart attack is usually thought of as a problem for men but women are also as vulnerable to these attacks. According to a study by Women’s Heart Foundation, around 435,000 American women have heart attacks annually; 35,000 are under the age of 55 and 83,000 are under the age of 65.
It is evident from research that women’s symptoms are not as predictable as men’s. As with men, the most common symptom is chest discomfort. But there are many other widespread symptoms which are unique to women. These symptoms may be subtle but don’t ignore them. It is important not to miss the earliest opportunity of prevention and cure.
It is important for women to learn about the warning signs of heart attack. These are
1. Chest pain/ discomfort
Women often experience constant or sporadic pain in their chest. The discomfort can be localized in the chest or between the shoulder blades in the back. This can take the form of heaviness or tightness.
2. Pain in shoulder and jaw
Research has shown that women often suffer from jaw and shoulder pain in conjunction with chest pain. The pressure from the chest spreads to the upper regions of body like neck, arm, shoulder, and jaw.
3. Trouble in breathing
The other early sign of heart attack can be shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing.
4. Gastrointestinal signs
There can be certain unrelated symptoms to chest pain in women. These are nausea and vomiting, indigestion, and feeling of heartburn.
5. Other signs
a. Women experience profuse sweating and clammy skin.
b. Signs of weakness in limbs, dizziness, and unusual fatigue.
c. Feeling of panic, anxiety, and nervousness.
d. Pain in stomach and abdomen.
e. A psychological sense of impending doom.
The risk of heart diseases in women can be reduced by introducing the following simple lifestyle changes:
1. Check history of heart disease in family.
With these details you and your doctor can assess your susceptibility to heart problems.
2. Do not ignore the slightest of the symptoms mentioned above.
Early diagnosis helps in controlling the occurrence of any further problems.
3. Visit your family doctor often.
Get your blood pressure, cholesterol level checked regularly. If required go for specialized tests like X-Rays and ECG.
4. Stay active.
Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight as extra weight puts strain on your heart. 45–60 minutes of aerobic exercise can prove useful for women.
5. Maintain a healthy diet.
The diet should be low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt. Vegetables and fruits are good options as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers. For protein supplements in body, consume skimmed milk, egg whites, fish, and legumes
6. Quit smoking.
This is a major risk factor for heart disease in women. More than half of the heart attacks in women are related to smoking. Women who smoke along with using birth control pills increase their risk of heart disease.
7. Perform yoga and meditation to destress because anxiety, panic, and stress leads to heart attack.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should only older women (above 55 years) worry about heart attack?
No, even younger women are susceptible to heart attack, especially, if there is a family history of heart disease.
2. What are the risk factors of heart disease in women?
The risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and low estrogen levels after menopause.
3. How is heart disease diagnosed?
The general physician will check the blood pressure, cholesterol level, weight, sugar level etc. Then he may suggest certain tests like X-ray, ECG, heart catherization etc.
4. Is heart disease preventable?
Yes, in most cases it is preventable. Frequent visits to the doctor, managing the risk factors, early diagnosis of the disease and maintaining a healthy lifestyle help to prevent it.