On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

4 Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

According to the American Heart Association, a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction (MI), occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or even completely cut off. This relates to the narrowing of blood arteries, primarily from a buildup of plaque, a process known as atherosclerosis.

4 Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

4 Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Despite the trauma the heart and body experiences during such an event, heart attack symptoms are often swept underneath the rug and may even be slightly unnoticed. However, dismissing signs and symptoms can pile on greater health concern and be potentially fatal. But what exactly are the signs of heart attacks in women and how can they reduce their risk of enduring one?

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

1. Discomfort in the center of the chest, including pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain (also known as angina). The sensation may last a few minutes, or may even go away and return.

2. Pain or discomfort may be felt not only in the chest, but may radiate to one or both arms, the back, neck, stomach, or the jaw.

3. Individuals may experience shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.

4. Other signs include cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness.

The symptoms and signs of heart attacks in women are fairly consistent with males. While the most common symptom across the board is chest pain and discomfort, women are more apt to experience other symptoms identified, including fatigue and dizziness.

Know, Understand, and Reduce Your Risk

The risk for heart disease is multifaceted, as there are various influences that may cause or accelerate its severity. Unmodifiable risk factors include:

• Age
Men aged 45 or older and women 55 or older are more likely to have a heart attack compared to younger individuals. People aged 65 years or older are identified to have the highest mortality rates from coronary heart disease.

• Gender
Interestingly, compared to men, women who have heart attacks have an increased likelihood to pass away within a few weekends. However, despite women's heightened risk of passing away weeks within a heart attack, males have a greater risk of heart disease than women.

• Family History
Individuals with a strong family history of heart disease are at greater risk of developing heart disease and experiencing heart attacks.

Although there are unchangeable factors that can impact your risk, heart disease and attacks can be prevented by making modifiable lifestyle changes:

• Modify the Diet
Reduce added sugar and salt intake by limiting prepackaged and convenience foods, primarily loading the diet with whole grains, fruit and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Find a more detailed heart healthy guide here. Additionally, bistroMD also offers a Heart Healthy diet program!

• Exercise Regularly
According to the American Heart Association, just walking 30 minutes a day can lower heart attack and stroke risk. Further recommendations suggest exercising at least 150 minutes of the week, including running, biking, and cycling.

• Disease Control
Whether it be hypertension or diabetes, managing blood pressures and glucoses or sugars can help lessen heart disease risk. Keeping blood lipids within normal limits is also strongly encouraged, including total cholesterol, LDL or "bad" cholesterol, HDL or "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides. Diet and exercise indicated above can assist in disease control and management.

• Smoke Cessation
Individuals who smoke are extremely encouraged to stop, as smoking not only increases their risk for heart disease, but even to nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. Smoking can increase blood pressure and the tendency for blood to clot while decreasing exercise tolerance.

• Relax the Brain
But just as important as physical health, mental health should not go unnoticed. Stress-relieving techniques can promote mental relaxation and regulate hormones and emotions. Getting a grasp on emotions has shown to reduce the risk of triggered heart attacks, arrhythmias, and even sudden death.

But aside from recognizing potential risk factors, it is important to schedule annual appointments and checkups. A healthcare provider can further assist in assessing personal risk factors for heart disease and detail an individualized health plan.