Royce Shook

3 years ago · 2 min. reading time · 0 ·

Royce blog
Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable

Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable

Every year, about 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack, and, for many, the result is dire. According to the CDC, one in four people dies of heart disease in the United States, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women. And yet, a 2005 survey found that only 27% of respondents were aware of all major symptoms of a heart attack, which is terrible because detecting early warning signs is crucial for survival.

Most people consider chest pain to be the only sign that a heart attack is on the horizon, but any upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach can be a major symptom, as well.

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable — the image of the elephant comes to mind — but in fact, they can be subtler and sometimes confusing.

You could feel so short of breath, “as though you ran a marathon, but you haven't made a move or some women experiencing a heart attack describe upper back pressure that feels like squeezing or a rope being tied around them. Dizziness, light-headedness or actually fainting are other symptoms to look for

Twitter user @geewheezie, who is a nurse, learned this the hard way and decided to share her story as a warning to other women in a thread that now has over 26,000 retweets.

"I want to warn women our heart attacks feel different. Last Sunday, I had a heart attack. I had a 95% block in my left anterior descending artery. I'm alive because I called 911. I never had chest pain. It wasn't what you read in pamphlets. I had it off and on for weeks. The pain ran across my upper back, shoulder blades and equally down both arms. It felt like burning and aching. I actually thought it was a muscle strain. It wasn't until I broke into drenching sweat and started vomiting that I called 911. I'm a nurse. I'm an older woman. I had been spending the week helping my neighbour clean out her barn, I thought I strained some muscles. I took Motrin and put a warm pack on my shoulders, I almost died because I didn't call it chest pain. The day before my heart attack I drove six hours to help my mother who lives in another state. I thought I should go to a [doctor] but I had to help my mom who is 90 and I'd just tough it out because it wasn't really bad. I was lucky, I had no idea what hospital to go to, the female medics who picked me up took me to a hospital that does cardiac caths, I had 4 stents placed an hour after I got to the ER. That was Sunday. I was discharged Thursday and at my daughters' house and back to tweeting."

While nausea, vomiting, and soreness in your arms are listed as major warning signs of heart attacks in general, @geewheezie

is right to want to "warn women our heart attacks feel different."

If you have any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

· Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

· Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

· Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

· Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Be aware that something very different is happening in your body, not the usual men's symptoms but inexplicable things happening. It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) heart attack because they didn't know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some Maalox or other anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed, hoping they'll feel better in the morning when they wake up, which doesn't happen. My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you've not felt before. It is better to have a 'false alarm' visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!



Royce Shook

3 years ago #2

Ken, what a great idea, thank you.

Ken Boddie

3 years ago #1

More than learning the symptoms, have you and your partner do a CPR course and a refresher course every year. Learn what a defibrillator looks like and where to find one in your mall or supermarket. Response times for an ambulance are often way too slow.

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