5 significant signs of heart attack in women
A heart attack is a major cardiovascular disorder, that happens slowly over time. The deteriorating conditions of the heart that when untreated, may lead to a heart attack. Besides being painful and expensive to treat, heart attacks can be lethal too.
The literature says that the prevalence of Heart attack has increased in midlife (35 to 54 years) women, which declined in similarly aged men. However, they can manifest in much worse situations in women than in men, according to the Indian Heart Association (IHA).
It is a common misconception that women are off the hook when it comes to heart attacks. It is also believed that only older women should worry about heart attacks. However, we have statistics to prove that women have a higher mortality rate from heart attacks.
Diseases of the circulatory system, which include heart failures, were the prime cause of death in India, according to a study released by the census department in 2013. Almost 29% of all deaths were caused by diseases of the circulatory system. While 28.5% of deaths among men were attributed to this group of diseases, 29.8% of all deaths among women were because of this group.
Experts believe that women tend to ignore or not notice the symptoms because heart attacks manifest differently for men and women. Women are also at a higher risk of a second heart attack. Therefore it becomes important to understand how heart diseases occur in women, the risk factors involved, and heart attack symptoms in women that should not be ignored.
Heart attack in women
The estrogen produced by a woman’s ovaries is very good for the heart. The natural estrogen acts as a protective agent for the heart. However, after menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen.
Therefore, a heart attack in women is likely to occur after menopause. This is one of the reasons women develop heart diseases later in life as compared to men.
The IHA says that after menopause, with declining estrogen levels, a woman’s risk for heart disease not only approaches but surpasses that of a man with similar risk factors. This increases further once the woman crosses 75 years of age. This could be because of changes in cholesterol levels after menopause. The condition is worse for Indian and South Asian women as they are deficient in HDL2b, the good cholesterol.
What causes a heart attack in women?
Heart attacks, both in men and women, occur when the blood flow to and from the heart is blocked, there is a deformity in the heart or when there is damage to the heart.
Traditional risk factors such as diabetes, cholesterol, weight, and blood pressure are the same for both men and women. However, the risk factors are much higher for women compared to men.
Here are some of the major risk factors for heart attack in women:
- Diabetes: While diabetes affects both men and women, the latter are at a much higher risk of having heart failure if they have diabetes. Women with diabetes may not even realize they are having a heart attack because the heart attack symptoms in women are mild.
- Menopause: As explained earlier, after menopause, women stop producing estrogen that protects the heart.
- Miscarriage: The IHA says that women who’ve had recurrent miscarriages are at a particularly high risk for heart attack.
- Hereditary: When someone in your family has a history of heart ailments, you are at a risk for the same. However, women are at a higher risk to inherit heart ailments.
- Lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits and smoking can lead to heart diseases in both men and women.
Heart attack symptoms in women
It is true that heart diseases manifest differently among men and women. Women are also more prone to have a silent heart attack without realising the symptoms. While chest pain is one of the most telling signs of a heart attack, it has also been reported that women experience symptoms that are not related to chest pain at all. It is important to detect the first signs of heart attack in women.
Here are some heart attack symptoms in women that you must not ignore:
- Chest pain: Most of us believe that a heart attack is preceded by severe chest pain. While this may be true for some, not all women experience it. Some women don’t experience chest pain at all. Some may feel a slight tightness in the chest.
- Short breath: If you are out of breath even after having done no rigorous exercise, it could be among the first signs of heart attack in women.
- Back/ stomach pain: Women have reported to have jabbing pain in their back or abdomen when experiencing a heart attack. These heart attack symptoms in women is often misunderstood for upset stomach or acidity.
- Fatigue/ sweating: One of the most telling signs of a heart attack in women is dullness or exhaustion. If accompanied by shortness of breath, these symptoms should not be ignored.
- Nausea: Some women have reported that they feel queasy and nauseated when they were experience a heart attack.
Studies show that women are more likely to have a heart attack in their sleep than men. In such cases, it may be difficult to acknowledge the symptoms. Only prevention can save you from having a heart attack in your sleep.
As illustrated in this blog, women are at a much higher risk for a heart attack and yet are more likely to ignore the signs. Heart attack symptoms in women are also more subtle than they are among men. It is easy to mistake these signs for lethargy, bad stomach or fatigue.
You should be able to identify the first signs of heart attack in women so that you can seek immediate medical attention.
If you’re a woman, understand what your risks are. If you have any of the risk factors, work towards controlling or eliminating those risks. It’s time to introduce lifestyle changes. Eat well and exercise regularly. Most importantly, do not ignore the warning signs.
Here’s to a healthy heart!