If you’re a woman over 45, this could save your life!
Impending heart attacks are not always about chest pain. Since this is the scenario that we are used to seeing in the movies or on TV, we think of it as the only sign of serious heart disease.
Not only is this a sad reflection of our male-dominated society and culture, it is downright inaccurate, since 50% of the people on the planet, i.e., women, face very different symptoms of a serious heart condition.
According to a study in the prestigious cardiology journal Circulation, women who are about to have a heart attack soon (within a month) could display certain other signs that should not be ignored.
The study researchers interviewed these women after they were discharged from hospital post their heart attack and asked them to identify the signs and symptoms that they felt in the month before the catastrophic event. They picked from a list of 70 signs and symptoms.
Leading the list of symptoms felt by women in the month before a heart attack was unusual fatigue, that felt like “having the flu” (experienced by more than 70% of the women!)
The four other common signs reported by women included:
- Sleep Disturbance (48%)
- Shortness of Breath (42%)
- Indigestion (39%) and
- Anxiety (35%).
In fact, less than a third of women experienced the symptom we all associate with a heart attack – chest pain – in the month before they have a heart attack.
So why do women not think “heart disease” when these symptoms happen? First, most of us simply don’t know. No one told us these symptoms could actually be precursors to a heart attack.
Second, if you go over the list again, you will realize that these sound very “everyday” kinds of symptoms. Women tend to take these symptoms in their stride and carry on with life. While that may seem like the common sense thing to do, we need to exercise our judgment and figure out when to take these signs seriously.
So Who Should Read More Into These Symptoms?
Women with the following risk factors should take the above symptoms seriously:
- Diabetes: Women with diabetes have been found to have double the risk of heart disease than women without it. So if you are a woman with diabetes, take the symptoms seriously.
- Smoking: A woman who smokes like likely to have a heart attack 19 years sooner than one who doesn’t.
- Obesity: 38% of black women, 23% of white women, and 36% of women of Mexican origin are obese in the U.S. Obesity directly increases risk of cardiac disease and events.
- Hypertension: Women with hypertension have a 3.5 times greater risk of developing coronary artery disease that women who don’t. High blood pressure is more common in women taking oral contraceptives, especially in obese women.
- Race: When it comes to how our bodies work, statistics show that race does matter. African American women in the ages of 55-64 are twice as likely to have a heart attack as white women in the same age group. The chances of Coronary Artery Disease are also 35% more likely.
- Menopause and High Stress: The reason we combine these two risk factors is because of a recently recognized phenomenon called “broken heart syndrome”. It is a condition where heart muscle failure occurs after a severely stressful situation and it occurs more commonly in menopausal women. Remember: Women already face increased risk of heart disease post menopause due to lower levels of estrogen, so this make the overall risk even higher.
- Depression: This risk factor is especially relevant for younger women. A 2014 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that women aged 55 years and younger are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, die or require artery-opening procedures if they’re depressed.
So be aware of these signs, share this information with your friends and family. It could save a life. And if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above, seek medical help immediately.