Did you know that heart attacks are a major cause of death in women over 50? It’s true, and the symptoms may not be the common symptoms you see on TV. Even more concerning, there are questions as to why women are less likely than men to survive a heart attack (and experts don’t have the answers). Women often don’t even know they have cardiovascular disease, making it all the more important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and act quickly. Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way for a woman to survive a serious heart event at any age.
What are the symptoms of a heart attack in women?
Many signs of a heart attack in women differ from the symptoms men typically experience. This discrepancy is why many women (and some healthcare professionals), may ignore or misunderstand signs indicating they could be having trouble with their heart.
The symptoms of a heart attack in both men and women include:
- Shortness of breath or breathlessness. This can be followed by chest pain, but that is not always the case.
- Feeling tightness in the chest or a kind of squeezing pain in the chest.
- Pain or pressure starting in the left side of the chest that spreads to the shoulders, arms, neck, and/or jaw.
Keep in mind that many women don’t experience chest pain when they experience a heart attack, but there are other signs – some are very subtle and some occur by themselves or in combination with others – that can indicate that a heart attack is about to occur.
Other symptoms that can point to a heart attack in women include:
- Abnormal heart beats
- Sudden, violent fatigue
If you suspect you might be having a heart attack – even if your symptoms are negligible – call your doctor or 911 right away.
The earlier you can get treatment, the more likely it will save your life.
Change your lifestyle to prevent a heart attack
Two of the leading causes of heart attacks are obesity and high cholesterol. Other factors that can lead to a heart attack in women over 50 are diabetes, lack of exercise, stress, smoking, high blood pressure and even heredity. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for heart disease and start making heart-healthy lifestyle changes as soon as possible.
Preventing a heart attack is as easy as quitting smoking, getting more exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet, and trying to live a more stress free life. If this seems like a tall order, start with small steps to decrease your risk of heart disease. Incorporate more physical activity into your everyday routine, reduce the fat in your diet, get help to quit smoking, and explore ways to lower your stress.
Whether you are over 50 or have loved ones who are over 50, quick diagnosis and treatment are the keys to surviving a heart attack, so don’t ignore the symptoms or wait to contact medical help no matter your age.