February was National Heart Awareness Month, so we wanted to take a moment and discuss the difference in heart attack symptoms between men and women.
MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT!
Shocking…. I know. Heart attacks and heart disease are just another way that men and women differ. Although, both genders are susceptible to heart disease and heart attacks, a woman presents differently during a heart attack than a man does. Unfortunately, for us women, it is less clear that what is actually a serious concern is not “just nothing” like heartburn, the flu, or anxiety.
In fact, HEART DISEASE is the number ONE killer of women in America. So how do we know if we are having a heart attack?
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest
- Pain in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach (MORE DIFFUSE THAN THE CLASSIC SIGNS OF LEFT ARM PAIN IN MEN)
- Shortness of breath (aka dyspnea)
- Cold sweats, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness
- Extreme fatigue
ANY of these signs may indicate heart attack, therefore, if present, call 911 immediately.
Women are MORE LIKELY to present with atypical symptoms of heart attacks than men, however, chest pain is still a pretty good indicator to go to the nearest ER.
HOW can we prevent heart disease and heart attacks?
- Get Active! If you already have cardiac disease, or any other co-morbidity, your physical therapist is the best person to determine an exercise program for you!
- Eat Better! Diets lower in fat and bad cholesterol are proven to lower the risk of heart disease.
- Lose weight
- Stop smoking: this is the number one risk factor for heart disease and can cut your risk of coronary heart disease in half if you QUIT!
- Manage your blood pressure: High Blood pressures may be a sign of a more serious problem, and if managed effectively, can prevent your risk of more serious issues
So, to recap, as women we have a lot of heart! We consistently put our families and loved ones first in our lives, often brushing our own needs off. It’s especially important for us to take care of health, however, so that we can live long enough and well enough to continue to make the most of time with our families!
Karla Wente, PT, DPT, CLT
Legacy Physical Therapy
Women’s Health Clinical Resident