Heart Attacks in Women

One woman's heart attack story

Heart Attacks in Women Kill
Heart Attacks in Women Kill

In 1991, I went to the ER with chest pains twice in one week. They said it was ulcers (bleeding in the stomach). Then the pain became very intense. Again, the ER said there was nothing they could do. I refused to leave and was admitted for observation. Later, the doctor on duty saw my EKG and asked, "Where's the 34-year-old who had the massive heart attack?" I had emergency surgery. However, the damage was done, and only part of my heart muscle functions. I had to quit a job I loved, and my life is completely changed. They thought I was too young to have a heart attack.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease includes a number of problems affecting the heart and the blood vessels in the heart. Types of heart disease include:

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type and is the leading cause of heart attacks. When you have CAD, your arteries become hard and narrow. Blood has a hard time getting to the heart, so the heart does not get all the blood it needs. CAD can lead to:

  • Angina (an-JEYE-nuh). Angina is chest pain or discomfort that happens when the heart does not get enough blood. It may feel like a pressing or squeezing pain, often in the chest, but sometimes the pain is in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It can also feel like indigestion (upset stomach). Angina is not a heart attack, but having angina means you are more likely to have a heart attack.
  • Heart attack. A heart attack occurs when an artery is severely or completely blocked, and the heart does not get the blood it needs for more than 20 minutes.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to pump blood through the body as well as it should. This means that other organs, which normally get blood from the heart, do not get enough blood. It does not mean that the heart stops. Signs of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath (feeling like you can't get enough air)
  • Swelling in feet, ankles, and legs
  • Extreme tiredness

Heart arrhythmias (uh-RITH-mee-uhz) are changes in the beat of the heart. Most people have felt dizzy, faint, out of breath or had chest pains at one time. These changes in heartbeat are harmless for most people. As you get older, you are more likely to have arrhythmias. Don't panic if you have a few flutters or if your heart races once in a while. If you have flutters and other symptoms such as dizziness or shortness of breath, call 911 right away.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/4/2014

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Heart Attacks in Women - Prevention Question: As a woman, how do you prevent heart disease or a heart attack?
Heart Attacks in Women - Blood Pressure Question: If you've been diagnosed with hypertension, how have you lowered your blood pressure?
Heart Attacks in Women - Cholesterol and Triglycerides Question: How often do you get your levels for cholesterol and triglycerides checked? Please share your experience.
Heart Attacks in Women - Signs and Symptoms Question: If you've had a heart attack, what were your signs and symptoms?
Heart Attacks in Women - Heredity Question: Does heart disease run in your family? In what ways are you trying to minimize the risk?

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

What Are the Heart Attack Symptoms and Signs in Women?

A lot of people think that women do not get heart disease. More women die from heart disease than from anything else. Any woman can get heart disease.

When you think about heart disease, you probably think about chest pain. Women might not have chest pain. If they do, they might call it an achy, tight or "heavy" feeling instead of pain. The pain might even be in the back between the shoulder blades, instead of the chest.

Women might think these signs are no big deal because they don't "sound" like a heart attack. Don't ignore these signs. Go to your doctor of clinic right away.

What are the signs and symptoms of heart disease in women?

The most important sign is feeling really tired - even if after enough sleep. Other signs of heart disease in women are:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Feeling sick to the stomach

  • Feeling scared or nervous

  • New or worse headaches

  • An ache in the chest


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