Simple. Clear. Easy to understand. Each of these symptoms could be a warning sign of a heart attack. Notice that the unique symptoms listed on the right of this CardioSmart infograpic excerpt are most commonly seen in women.
But there’s more . . .
These cardiac symptoms may go away, and then come back again – sometimes over a surprisingly long period of time. Symptoms may not always be severe. We may believe that heart attack chest pain must be described as “crushing”, but it’s often frequently described by women with words like pressure, heavy, burning, full or tight – not “crushing” and often not even as “pain”.
At least 10% of women experience NO CHEST SYMPTOMS at all during a heart attack.(1)
For example, an interesting cardiac symptom often reported by women is what we call “a sense of impending doom” (anxiety occurring along with shortness of breath that doesn’t let up).
What to do when these symptoms strike?
You know your body.
You know when something is just not right.
Seek immediate medical care if you experience troubling symptoms that do not feel “normal” for you, especially if they persist over time or get worse.
Call 911 if you believe that serious symptoms might be heart-related.
Find out more about this CardioSmart infographic from the American College of Cardiology.
(1) S. Dey et al, “GRACE: Acute coronary syndromes: Sex-related differences in the presentation, treatment and outcomes among patients with acute coronary syndromes: the Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events”, Heart 2009;95:1 20–26.
On January 31, 2016, the American Heart Association released its first ever scientific statement on women’s heart attacks, (the first in the organization’s 92-year history!) confirming that “compared to men, women tend to be undertreated during a heart attack“, and including this finding: “While the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort for both sexes, women are more likely to have atypical symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.”
But as Canadian paramedic and filmmaker Cristina D’Allessandro likes to ask: “Women make up over half of the population – so why do they call our cardiac symptoms “atypical”?
Q: What was the first symptom you experienced during your cardiac event?
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: My book “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease” reads like a “best of Heart Sisters” blog collection. You can ask for it at your local bookshop or public library, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use their code HTWN to save 30% off the list price).