Think about the following numbers: 370,000 women have heart attacks every year. Women tend to have heart attacks later in life than men, but younger women under age 60 are not immune to them.
What is heart disease?
A heart attack is usually a sign of heart disease. Heart disease refers to any problem that affects the heart's ability to function normally. This could be an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or a heart defect you've had since birth.
However, coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease. It occurs when the heart's arteries become clogged with fatty deposits (plaque), restricting blood flow. About 1 out of every 14 women between ages 40 and 59 has CHD. If the artery becomes completely blocked, a heart attack may be the result.
Long before having a heart attack, some people experience angina pectoris. With angina pectoris, you may feel uncomfortable pressure, fullness or pressure in your chest after exercising. It usually goes away with rest, but it's linked to coronary heart disease. This is a good opportunity to see a health care provider for a heart evaluation.
While the normal causes of heart disease like smoking, poor diet and obesity are common between both sexes, women in particular should pay extra attention to their cholesterol levels. After menopause, your estrogen production declines, which may decrease HDL or "good" cholesterol and increase the LDL or "bad" levels.
How women experience a heart attack
Women may experience different heart attack symptoms than men. While chest pain is the most common symptom, women are more likely to experience more subtle signs.
Heart attack signs for women:
What to do?
As you can see, these symptoms seem innocent. As a result, women may misinterpret them as signs of stress or another sickness. However, you should seek medical help immediately at Riverside Community Hospital's emergency department if these symptoms manifest.
Remember, you can avoid having a heart attack — even if your family has a history of them. Not smoking, getting plenty of exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, watching your weight and going to the doctor are great ways to help keep your heart safe. And, if you experience unusual symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, or back or jaw pain, call 911 and ask to be taken to Riverside Community Hospital's emergency department.
Show your heart some love
When was the last time you had a heart-health checkup? If it's been too long or you just want some peace of mind about your health, give us a call.
To find a doctor or speak to a nurse, call Consult-A-Nurse® at (951) 788-3463, 24 hours a day.
For more information, visit our Heart Care Institute.