There’s a common misconception that the symptoms of a heart attack differ greatly between men and women. Hearsay might suggest that while men will experience the ‘well known’ heart attack signs like tight chest, pain in left arm and shortness of breath, women are more likely to notice less common symptoms like nausea, fatigue and indigestion in the run up to having an attack.
The truth is, however, that while symptoms do vary from person to person, there is no difference between how men and women suffer heart attacks and no symptoms that women experience more or less than men.
Heart attack Symptoms
The signs to look out for, and act upon immediately, in both men and women are:
- Chest pain or discomfort in your chest that suddenly occurs and doesn't go away. It may feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing
- The pain may spread to your left or right arm or may spread to your neck, jaw, back or stomach
- You may also feel sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.
Less common symptoms:
- A sudden feeling of anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack
- Excessive coughing or wheezing
Heart problems are men’s problems, right?
Wrong! According to the BHF, Coronary Heart Disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK every year, and is the single biggest killer of women worldwide.
There are more than 800,000 women in the UK living with CHD, which is the main cause of heart attacks. 35,000 women are admitted to hospital following a heart attack each year in the UK - an average of 98 women per day, or 4 per hour.
How can women protect themselves from heart attacks?
Living an unhealthy, sedentary life will make you prone to heart disease, regardless of your gender. The more heart risk factors you live with, the more likely you are to develop some form of coronary heart disease.
Risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- Lack of Exercise or daily activity
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
We do know that pre-menopausal women have a small level of protection from coronary heart disease because of the hormones in their system. However, post menopause these protection disappears and a woman’s risk rises and continues to rise and she ages.
Because heart disease and heart attacks are mistakenly believed to be more commonly experienced by men, it has been found that women can be less likely to seek medical attention and treatment quickly, despite the warning signs.
Immediate treatment is key to restoring blood flow to the affected part of the heart muscle, and improving your chances of survival.
If you think you're having a heart attack, call 999 for an ambulance immediately!
A false alarm is much preferable to the alternative.
For further help and advice the British Heart Foundation has a wealth of information on their website, as well as dedicated helplines and experts.
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