Heart attacks — myocardial infarctions, in medical lingo — are most commonly associated with men, and, indeed, men are more likely to suffer a heart attack than women. However, a woman who does have a heart attack is more likely to die of it than a man. And cardiovascular disease, currently the leading cause of death in the US, kills six times more women than men every year.
Part of the reason for this increase in death rate from heart attack is the fact that women have heart attack symptoms that are considered “atypical,” which often means that they realize they need medical attention much later than men. According to studies cited by the Harvard Medical School, men seek treatment for heart attack 16 hours after they first notice symptoms. How long does it take for women to seek treatment? 54 hours. It’s a big difference that makes a big difference, because with heart attacks, time is of the essence: 85% of the damage of a heart attack takes place in the first two hours.
Protect yourself by being aware of the specific symptoms associated with heart attacks in both men and women.
Heart Attack Symptoms Common to Both Men and Women
- pain or discomfort in the chest
- pain in shoulders, neck, arm, or jaw
- shortness of breath,
- loss of consciousness
- heartburn or indigestion
- nausea or vomiting
Heart Attack Symptoms More Common in Men
- Chest pressure described as being like “an elephant sitting on my chest”
- Pain, discomfort, or pressure on the right side of the chest
Heart Attack Symptoms More Common in Women
- Unexplained weakness or fatigue, which may last for several days
- Sleep disturbance
- Discomfort in the throat
While the “elephant sitting on my chest” is the hallmark symptom of a heart attack, one study found that almost 50% of women have no chest pain at all while having a heart attack. Instead, they classically report fatigue and shortness of breath.
The most important thing to remember, however, is that in both men and women, every heart attack is unique. If you are experiencing any heart attack symptoms, whether they are “typical” or not, you should call 911 and get emergency medical assistance.
Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.
Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.
Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.