Ladies, learn symptoms of heart attack.
There are a lot of things women can do to improve their heart health, but the first thing is to survive long enough to make the proper changes. Many women will die tomorrow or the next day, misinterpreting the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Even with all our medical advances, women continue to be misdiagnosed in emergency rooms. Opinions differ on why this is. Some point out sexual bias and lack of suspicion of heart trouble in women, but the more likely culprit is the strange way heart attacks occur.
In men, a heart attack is usually characterized by crushing chest pain that radiates to the left shoulder, arm and neck. It often presents with shortness of breath and sweating. Textbook.
The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. That, unfortunately, is where the similarities end. But the strangest thing is that the pain is not always severe or even the most prominent symptom. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
Nausea or vomiting. Maybe it’s food poisoning? A bad clam?
Sweating, often not associated with any other symptoms. Women get considered for infections instead of heart problems.
Neck, shoulder, upper back or even abdominal discomfort. Women are given Motrin and told to go home.
Unusual fatigue. Could be one of a thousand diseases. Heart attack isn’t considered until it’s too late.
Shortness of breath, once again, often as a solitary symptom. Diagnosis, asthma or other respiratory problem.
Lightheadedness or dizziness. Hysteria? Over emotional?
Why does a heart attack in women present differently than in men? It may be because women tend to experience blockages in the smaller blood vessels within the heart — micro vascular disease. With men it’s the larger, main coronary arteries that become occluded. Maybe that’s why men develop sudden, dramatic symptoms that are easily recognized.
So with this information, women can be vigilant about watching for the sometimes unusual signs and symptoms of heart attack and stop the progression early in the game. The key to getting the care you need in a timely manner is getting to the hospital as soon as the symptoms begin.
Dr. Andrew Ordon is a Rancho-Mirage based plastic surgeon. He can be seen on “The Doctors.”