The traditional picture of the man in deep pain clutching his chest in the throes of a heart attack may not be one that applies as much to women, since symptoms of heart disease in women can be very different and in many cases, a great deal more subtle.
When you consider the fact that heart disease is the number one cause for death among women in the United States, it becomes all the more important to be aware of the symptoms of heart disease in women.
In one study the Mc Sweeney Acute and Prodromal Myocardial Infarction Symptoms Survey questionnaire was designed to help women detect and describe the symptoms of heart disease in women.
Most of the women questioned, reported to feeling certain symptoms such as unusual tiredness and sleep disturbances in the weeks that preceding their attack. Anxiety, indigestion, shortness of breath was also reported.
However, less than a third of the women reported feelings of chest pain or discomfort. Even at the time of the actual heart attack, less than half the women reported pain, tightness or pressure in the chest, which proves that symptoms of heart disease in women are different from those of men.
The early symptoms of heart disease in women that should be a warning to women of a possible heart attack to follow could be –
- An unusual amount of tiredness or fatigue.
- Sleep disturbances due to any of several different reasons
- An unexplained shortness of breath (that does not owe itself to usual exertion or physical activity).
- Indigestion or digestive disturbances.
- Feelings of anxiety.
- Palpitations accompanied by lightheadedness or dizziness.
The symptoms of heart disease in women as above could manifest in the weeks before a heart attack and so must be investigated by a visit to the doctor.
The symptoms of an actual heart attack in women could include the following and remember as many as half the women experiencing a heart attack may have no chest pains at all –
- Shortness of breath that lasts for longer than 5 to 10 minutes.
- Feeling of weakness.
- Unusual tiredness and fatigue that cannot be explained any other way.
- Breaking into a cold sweat for no explainable reason.
- Feelings of dizziness and even in cases fainting or spells of losing consciousness.
- A feeling of panic or extreme anxiety for no particular reason.
- A pain or pressured feeling in the chest, the shoulders, arms and back, even the jaw that lasts for more than 5 to 10 minutes. It could be a feeling of squeezing or burning even, that could mean a heart attack.
The important thing to remember is that due to the subtlety and the kind of symptoms of heart disease in women this condition often goes undetected. Also women tend not to pay much attention to unusual sensations and may not speak up about symptoms that they experience, because traditionally it is the men who are thought of as being prone to heart disease. So, one needs to be even more vigilant when it comes to symptoms of heart disease in women.