The problem with diagnosing a heart attack is that there are a number of conditions that can present with symptoms in the chest area that are not related to the heart. Also, women can have a variation of the accepted symptoms of a heart attack that are not typically experienced by men.
Not all heart attacks present the same way for every individual and it is likely that a person will only have one or two of the symptoms depending on the severity and cause of the attack.
What is vital; is noting any sudden changes to the way your body functions and if those changes do not revert to normal within a couple of days you need to see a doctor. Sometimes we get run down, have an infection or are going through a particularly stressful period at work or in a relationship, but it may also indicate that you have a deeper and more serious health problem.
I covered angina and the more common heart diseases in the post last week… But I have been asked to clarify the difference between the symptoms experienced by men vs. Women.
A heart attack results in the reduction of blood flow through the heart blood vessels; causing the heart muscle cells to die.
Early signs of an impending heart attack in men.
Men typically will ignore the early signs of a heart attack and put it down to over exertion, indigestion or a pulled muscle. If they have been diagnosed with angina they will become sensitive to the risk, but many will not know they have heart disease until they have a massive pain in their chest.
Whilst I do not encourage hypochondria; I do think that all men and also women should be checked out annually by a doctor for the key indicators of heart disease such as high Blood Pressure, Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and Blood Sugar. That way risk factors and early signs of heart disease should be picked up.
Here are the typical symptoms that a man is likely to experience during a heart attack.
- Severe chest pain,usually to the left side, that feels as though you have a ton weight sitting on your chest accompanied by a contracting sensation that might be intermittent or constant.
- Pain in the entire upper body including particularly the left shoulder, the arms, in the neck, mid back, jaw or stomach.
- The heart will be beating very rapidly and is likely to have an irregular beat.
- Stomach cramps similar to what you might expect if you have eaten something tainted and possibly acid reflux as you would in indigestion.
- Breathing becomes restricted and it is difficult to take a deep breath.
- Dizziness and feeling as though you are about to faint.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat.
Early symptoms of an impending heart attack in women.
Again the early signs of a heart attack can be ignored, especially by a woman who is naturally busy throughout the day with work and family. However this is where the differences might occur between the early signs of a heart event between men and women.
We all get tired from time to time and have sleepless nights but if that becomes a pattern and normal then you need to get yourself checked out. This is particularly important post menopause when the protective hormones have decreased and we are more at risk of heart disease.
I covered those risk factors in the posts last week and if you fall into a high risk category because of family history, long-term smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol; you need to be particularly vigilant with the following symptoms.
It is important to remember that each person is different and may experience some or all of the symptoms depending on the nature of their particular heart event.
- Unusual tiredness that is constant and is not relieved even when you have rested.
- Onset of shortness of breath even doing normal daily tasks.
- Flu like symptoms that do not improve after a week or so.
- Insomnia or other sleep disturbances that are out of character for your normal routine.This could include waking in the early hours of the night and unable to go back to sleep again.
- Feeling stressed all the time with more than usually high heartbeat rates or skipped beats.
- Sudden onset of indigestion and occasional chest pains.
The acute signs that a heart attack is taking place in a woman.
- As with men there is likely to be pain in the chest area and other parts of the body during an attack.
- Pressure of a heavy weight on the chest,
- Onset of a severe ache in the upper back,
- Painful neck and shoulders,
- Pain in the arms particularly the left arm
- Tightness and pain in the jaw and throat.
- As with men there may also be nausea, rapid heartbeat, cold sweats and dizziness.
As I mentioned in the introduction the key here is to recognise the possible early symptoms of an impending heart attack so that you can consult your doctor right away.
Also it is important to understand your body and how it functions on a day to day basis so that you recognise the changes that might indicate you are at a higher risk of a heart event.
I hope that has clarified the differences between men and women and please do not hesitate to ask questions.
I would also remind you that this post in no way is classed as medical advice and that you should always consult your doctor if you are in any way concerned about your heart or general health.
©sallcronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2017
Next time – the involvement in stress in heart disease.
Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to share.. Sally