A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is drastically reduced or completely blocked. Blood carries vitally important oxygen to muscles throughout the body, including heart muscles. Without oxygen, the muscles begin to die. Being able to recognize what is happening and getting appropriate help immediately is crucial to survival.
What causes blockage
The most common cause of blockage in arteries is a build-up of plaque. Plaque is a mixture of cholesterol, fat, and other substances. Over time the plaque can break off or rupture causing a clot to form. The clot forms the actual blockage and a heart attack happens.
It’s not always what it seems
Often a woman experiences the most common symptoms of a heart attack and never recognizes what is happening. A woman will push through any discomfort and point to heartburn, back strain, toothache, or many other causes. Even if the symptoms are the more traditional shortness of breath or chest-clutching pain, women often fail to seek immediate care. Often the assumption is that heart attacks happen more to men and therefore, the problem is something else.
What women might feel
Women may have more typical signs of a heart attack. Common symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea or indigestion, anxiety, and heart palpitations. However, women may also have less obvious symptoms that are just as telling of a heart attack. Some of the less common cardiac warning signs in women include:
Sweating with or without shortness of breath
Neck, jaw, or back pain
Diagnosis is in the details
Women experiencing a heart attack can even be misdiagnosed. Once a woman seeks help for a possible cardiac event, medical personnel must be provided all the details of symptoms. Nothing is too small, and everything should be considered linked to the event. Even the timing of when symptoms started, how long each lasted, and activity at the time is essential.
The most crucial step
When asked the most vital step in surviving a heart attack, most doctors will agree on the answer, prevention. Sudden death from heart attack occurs more often in women than men. Often that is because warning signs do not appear or are not recognized. Having regular checkups including screening for cholesterol and diabetes is vital. Diet, exercise, and quitting smoking are other essential prevention steps.
Symptoms, recognition, action
Awareness that women can fall victim to heart disease just as often as men is crucial. Women experiencing symptoms of a heart attack must recognize and take immediate action to improve chances of survival. Women want to put family first. By recognizing and acknowledging symptoms of heart attack and seeking immediate help, women will do just that.