Warning signs of a heart attack in women

Most of us know that chest pain is a common sign of a heart attack, but did you know that women can experience other, less common symptoms? We spoke with John Sherman, MD, FACC, FACP, FSCAI, an interventional cardiologist at Dignity Health Medical Group in Ventura County, about the signs and risks women should be aware of.

Dr. John Sherman

“As with men, the most common sign of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort,” says Dr. Sherman. “Some women have no chest discomfort, but instead will experience only extreme fatigue, nausea, flu-like symptoms, and/or shortness of breath.”

Signs of a heart attack
Chest pain may feel like pressure or a burning sensation and may radiate to the left shoulder and radiate down the arm, elbow, wrist, and/or hand. Dr. Sherman explains that the following symptoms can be more subtle and sometimes go unnoticed:

  • Pain in the jaw, neck or back
  • suffocation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • loss of consciousness
  • Anxiety or a sense of impending doom

Early detection saves lives
If you experience heart attack symptoms, especially if they last more than a few minutes, call 9-1-1 immediately.

“Chewing and swallowing 325 mg of aspirin as soon as possible can help stop blood clotting temporarily while you seek further medical attention,” says Dr. Sherman. “Women who have a history of heart disease and have a prescription for nitroglycerin should use nitroglycerin as soon as they begin to have symptoms of chest pain.”

Risk factors for heart failure/stroke include:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Personal history of heart disease
  • Use of tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • obesity

Because heart disease can develop with limited or no symptoms, women who have one or more of these risk factors should be sure to discuss their risk with a doctor. Seeking medical care early can help prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

Make an appointment with your doctor today if you suspect you may be experiencing new or unusual symptoms related to heart disease. Your doctor can also provide resources to help you maintain lifestyle changes to lower your risk and live a heart-healthy life.

Meet Jon Sherman, MD, FACC, FACP, FSCAI

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