How women can tell if they’re headed for a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

When nurse-researcher Dr. Jean McSweeney from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences interviewed hundreds of heart attack survivors, she discovered something surprising: 95 percent of the women she interviewed actually suspected something was very wrong in the months leading up to their attack.

But even these early warning prodromal symptoms didn’t necessarily send women rushing to the doctor, as reported in Dr. McSweeney’s study published in the medical journal, Circulation.(1)  And for those women who did seek help early, doctors often failed to identify their problems as being heart-related.

If you experience the warning symptoms listed below – especially if the feelings are new, worse, unexplained, or you have other heart disease risk factors – call your doctor.  And if they’re severe, or you have any signs of an impending heart attack, call 911Continue reading “How women can tell if they’re headed for a heart attack”

Mayo Clinic: “What are the symptoms of a heart attack for women?”

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters

It’s been in the news. It’s been presented at cardiology conferences.  It has set cardiac circles and women heart attack survivors abuzz. It’s the question of whether women present with heart attack symptoms that are different than those of men.  The media attention surrounding the claims of this study conclusion has put women’s awareness of heart disease back a decade, in my opinion.  Continue reading “Mayo Clinic: “What are the symptoms of a heart attack for women?””

How does it really feel to have a heart attack? Women survivors answer that question

by Carolyn Thomas   ♥   @HeartSisters

Having a heart attack felt nothing like I thought it would feel.   For one thing, unlike sudden cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating and you stop breathing, during my heart attack (myocardial infarction), my heart continued beating, and I was walking, talking and conscious throughout despite horrific symptoms – so how could I possibly be having a heart attack?

Like most women, I’d never really thought about my heart – except maybe when running up that killer Quadra Street hill with my running group. Yet heart disease kills six times more women than breast cancer each year (in fact, it kills more women than all forms of cancer combined).

Women need to know all the potential symptoms of a heart attack – both typical and atypical. And by the way, I’ve stopped using the word “atypical to describe any non-chest pain symptom that women experience during a heart attack, because as paramedic and documentary filmmaker (“A Typical Heart“) Cristina D’Alessandro likes to say: 

“Why are our cardiac symptoms called ‘atypical’ when women are more than half the population?”

I asked some female survivors to share their very first symptoms. Their heart attack stories may surprise you. If you need help translating some of the heart jargon, visit my patient-friendly jargon-free glossary of cardiology terms and abbreviations.

Read their stories

Women fatally unaware of heart attack symptoms

woman dixie thinking

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

“Women spend more time thinking about their weight than they do about their hearts.”

Honey, if you experience a sudden upset stomach, crushing fatigue and shortness of breath, put down your phone. You could be having a heart attack.

Barely one third of Canadian women are aware that pain in the chest, arm, neck, jaw or back are not always the most common symptoms for a woman suffering a heart attack – the #1 killer of women in Canada.

In fact, 43% of women report unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting during a cardiac event – but NOT chest pain.(1)

A 2008 Canadian study of women over 40 called the LIPSTICK Survey reported that women spend more time thinking about their weight than they do about their hearts. Only 10% of women surveyed knew their personal LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels, versus the 64% of women who know how much they weighed in high schoolContinue reading “Women fatally unaware of heart attack symptoms”