An Energetic Nutrition Experience
This blog focused on women and heart attacks was inspired by an event that hit a little too close to home here at Energetic Nutrition. In 2011, our founder, Lorraine’s, sister suffered a heart attack. Like many instances, she didn’t know she had experienced a heart attack. She laid in bed for 3 days with feelings of fatigue, indigestion, and nausea, thinking she had “caught something.”
Eventually she deteriorated to the point of needing emergency care. Tests showed she had a heart attack. If she had not come into the hospital when she did, she would have likely experienced another heart attack, which could have been more detrimental than the first one.
Thankfully, she is doing okay now, but it made all of us here at Energetic Nutrition stop and think:
“How many people actually know the symptoms of a heart attack in women?”
You may be surprised to learn that heart attack symptoms can vary quite a bit between women and men. Considering that heart disease is currently the leading cause of death among American women1, Lorraine requested we write a blog about the signs of a heart attack in women in honor of her sister, in the hopes that this information may help other women.
The Facts about Women and Heart Attacks
According to the American Heart Association, more than 42 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease. More than 200,000 women die each year of heart attacks. If this is not enough to make you sit up and take note, consider this: While many people think of heart disease as a “man’s condition”, the surprising fact is that more women than men die of heart disease each year than men.
Further, women are less likely than men to receive appropriate treatment after a heart attack, often because they are unaware of the signs and symptoms.
Women Most at Risk
The most common risk factors for women include:
- Family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Poor diet
- Being physically inactive
- Age: 55 years or older puts you at a higher risk
- Race/ethnicity: African American, Hispanic, and Native American women are all at greater risk of developing heart disease than Caucasian women
Identifying a Heart Attack: Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of heart attack in women can vary from those usually associated with men. Common symtoms of women and heart attacks can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual fatigue
- Lower chest discomfort
- Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort that may feel like indigestion
- Throat discomfort
- Back pain
A study of 41 women and 59 men who suffered heart attacks revealed that while some heart attack symptoms are similar for men and women, women may in fact experience varying symptoms that often get brushed off as being something else.1
Here’s how the participants described their heart attack symptoms:
- Pain, shortness of breath, fatigue – No gender differences
- Right-side chest discomfort – 4.7 times more likely to be reported by men
- Throat discomfort – 12 times more likely to be reported by women
- Discomfort – 2.7 times more likely to be reported by men
- Dull ache – 3.9 times more likely to be reported by men
- Pressure in the chest – 7.3 times more likely to be reported by women
- Vomiting – 3.9 times more likely to be reported by women
- Indigestion – 3.7 times more likely to be reported by men
Men were also five times more likely than women to recognize their symptoms as being related to their heart, say the researchers.
Prevention: What You Can Do to Protect Your Heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States—and it’s preventable. The high statistics are not hard to believe when you stop and look at the way most Americans are living today. The high stress lifestyle, a nutrient poor diet, and daily exposure to chemicals make many women susceptible to heart problems and complications that were not factors in previous generations.
So what can you do to protect yourself? You can start be evaluating your lifestyle and making adjustments where needed.
A healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of heart disease. If you already have heart disease, a healthy lifestyle may prevent it from getting worse.
A healthy lifestyle includes:
- Following a healthy diet abundant in vegetables and fruit, good quality (hormone and antibiotic free) protein, legumes, and moderate amounts of healthy fats like olive oil and avocado
- Being physically active
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Managing stress
Important: If you or someone you know is experiencing a heart attack, crush or chew a full-strength aspirin (swallow with a glass of water) to prevent further blood clotting, and seek medical help immediately.
Read more about cardiovascular health in the article You’re All Heart.