February is all about red. Roses. Hearts. Ribbons. And don’t forget, February is also American Heart Month and Go Red For Women Day (February 7) – which are great opportunities to learn more about heart disease and how it affects women in America.
In case you missed the Go Red for Women Day memo, coronary heart disease (CHD) causes 1 in every 4 deaths for women in the United States. CHD builds up plaque on the inner walls of your arteries – blocking blood flow to the heart and eventually causing a heart attack in women.
However, CHD can be deceptive. You may not know you have it – and if you have a heart attack, you may not know its going on. Heart attack symptoms in women look different than they do in men, and sometimes they can go unrecognized until it’s too late. That’s why American Heart Month and Go Red For Women Day – raising heart health awareness – is so important.
Here are some tips to help you recognize heart attack signs in women, either for yourself or for someone else.
Heart Attack Symptoms #1: Chest pain. But not necessarily localized on the left side, like in male heart attacks. A woman’s entire chest – or anywhere in her chest – may hurt. Sometimes the sensation is closer to a “fullness” or vise-like squeezing.
Heart Attack Symptoms #2: Pain pretty much everywhere else in women. We’re talking both arms, back, jaw and/or neck. Most male heart attack pain is confined to the left side of the chest and left arm. But women can experience heart attack pain in almost any area of the body above the waist. The pain may be sudden, or it may build up gradually. If you have any unexplained pain in your upper body area, you should talk to your doctor.
Heart Attack Symptoms #3: Stomach pain. It may not be the flu, a stomach ulcer or even heart burn. It could be a symptom of cardiac arrest in women.
Heart Attack Symptoms #4: Sweating. If it’s a nervous, cold sweat that’s not related to exercise or hot flashes, you should get it checked out.
Heart Attack Symptoms #5: Nausea, lightheadedness or trouble breathing. If you experience this symptom along with one or more of the others, you could be having a heart attack.
Heart Attack Symptoms #6: Fatigue without any real reason. Extreme tiredness – especially if you haven’t done anything to make yourself tired – is another red flag. If you’re suddenly too exhausted to stand up or walk to the next room, you might be experiencing a heart attack symptom.
What are the risk factors for a heart attack in women?
It’s a good idea to know what your chances of heart disease are. In general, women are more likely to experience a heart attack if they:
Also, once you’re over the age of 55, your chances can go up. If you’ve gone through early menopause – either naturally or from a hysterectomy – your chances of contracting heart disease are about twice as high.
To find out the chances of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, use this risk assessment tool from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
And, to learn more about financially protecting yourself from a heart attack, read why a critical illness insurance policy could be a smart idea for you and your family.
Talk to us in the comments! What are you doing to keep your heart healthy this month?
(Image via Women’s Health Magazine.)