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The Heart of a Woman

Heart Disease: Why It's Different for Women


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I have read all the comments on this article, and found all to be helpful for the most
part. I have one grandparent with heart issues, one had cancer, my Dad had heart
problems, my oldest brother died of a heart attack, the next one died of heart failure
due to emphysema.
About 2 years ago, I had read of the Heart MRI, and wanted one so my dr. set me up
due to the family history and weight battle/high BP. The technician said my heart was
great. The one thing I would advise: DO NOT SMOKE. My Dad smoked, both the
brothers were heavy smokers. My husband had 4 H.A.'s, 3 stents, open heart. His
surgeon told him if he had not been a smoker, he would have had a healthy heart.

I am eating well, exercising as much as possible, staying active. I also have Arthritis
and at times it is difficult, but I do the best I can. Report
I was guilty of thinking of heart disease as a men's disease for many years. Despite the fact that my dad and his brothers all had heart disease, I thought that I wasn't at risk. Since one of my aunts died as a result of a stroke, clearly I was in total denial. When one of my cousins (female) had a heart attack at 60 and died, I finally realized that the family history of heart disease also applied to me. Now I make sure that all of my medical providers know about my family history and that we run all of the appropriate tests and consider that history when investigating symptoms (I do the same for the family diabetes risk).

As for the comment about putting our affairs in order and accepting death... while we should all have our affairs in order at all times, seriously? If your family members experienced a low quality of life in their 90s, it was the low quality of life, not their 90s. My mom is 85 and her sisters are 89 and 90. They do have a lot more limitations than they did in their 60s, but they are all as sharp as ever and enjoying their lives. One of my aunts has had Parkinson's for decades and recently lost her spouse of about 70 years and the other has survived two husbands and is no longer able to live alone, so that they are still happy and as active as possible is really saying something. Growing older and being in poor health do not go hand in hand, something we all need to remember. Report
Woolfolk, I agree that we are obsessed with youth in our culture, and seem to want to forget that we aren't immortal. However, regardless of how long your life is, if you don't put real effort into taking care of yourself chances are the end of your life (at 60, like my dad, or 97, like my grandma) will be awful. I know folks all over the map, age- and health-wise, and the one real constant is that staying active and relatively fit pays dividends throughout your whole life span, up to and including increased mobility and independence in your later years. Report
Personally, I think we should just get used to the idea that people die. It's the one thing we can be 100% sure of. All this Importance of Saving Lives takes on a new dimension once you actually have someone in their 90s in your family -- it's not all it's cracked up to be, not by a long shot. So just lead the healthiest life you can, without obsessing over it, and keep your affairs in order, and you'll be a lot happier than some gym bunny who Lives for the Burn. Report
10 years ago I had to have a stent put in.
My symptoms were horrible pain in my right arm down to the wrist ,lasted a few minutes then it was gone this happend on and off for several months, i also used to get dizzy , i finally passed out and was taken to the ER put through lots of tests,and got the stent inserted.Still ,after that I sometimes get the feeling something is wrong ,feels like a slight panic attack so i go and have myself checked and i see my doctor every 3 months check ups and labwork (due to medications)
overall I think we have to listen better to our bodies and take care of us. Report
I was going to say the same thing as Marinashu about jaw pain not being mentioned. I work in an ER and women do present differently than men when it comes to cardiac issues. Anything out of the norm should be checked out. Report
Heart disease symptoms for women ARE confusing. One that's not mentioned in here that was mentioned in my CPR class is jaw pain. (Seriously!) If you have any doubts, go see your doctor just in case. Report
Like AMOSALONZO I am confused about what is a heart problem symptom and what is a menopausal symptom. For the last 10 year (at least) I have had days in a row when I have been so dizzy at bed time that I don't sleep, and those incredibly piercing headaches again that last for what seems like ever. For the past 5 years or so I get hot flashes that leave me dripping and red in the face. I get the back aches but minor chest pain. I am 54 by the way. I know we need to take heed of the symptoms but it is difficult to know what symptom reflects what. I guess my guide is if it isn't the "normal" weird stuff that happens regularly, I will be concerned, otherwise I will assume business as usual. Report
I agree that we all have to be careful and monitor ourselves. BUT, being perimenopausal I have dealt with anxiety over the past 5 years and everything you described is what my attacks feel like. I have some back spasm problems and it freaks me out because it feels like a heart attack. But I'm not. In fact your article had me doing a self appraisal. Caught myself wondering.

My point being is there has to be a better way of describing the symptoms. Because I would have been in the hospital every week for years if I followed the description given. Go to your Physician. If they don't do a full physical when you request including a stress test, blood work etc. GET A NEW DOCTOR! If they will not spend the time to discuss any concerns you might have without shrugging them off and telling you to just calm down. GET A NEW DOCTOR! I do not care if they have been your doctor for years, you owe them no loyalty. IT IS YOUR LIFE! But on that note.....go to your doctor, get your annual exams. MEN and WOMEN!! Report
Boy! This stuff is good to know. Strokes run in my family but in essence, the same thing that causes strokes causes heart attacks...blockage in the arteries. I know at one time, they were talking about calling strokes "brain attacks" so people would understand the causes were the same or very similar, but I'm not sure what happened to that movement.

Anyway, it's good information to know and to be aware of. Report
I had a heart attack at 42. Didn't even consider that as an option. Got very dizzy, pale according to all who saw me, then alternating cold and hot flashes. My husband and I were out shopping when it happened. Drove home, I thought I was having a gall bladder attack since I was female, fat and forty. Crashed in the bedroom, my husband, bless his heart, comes running down the hall with a glass of water and 2 aspirins. He probably saved my life. About 5 minutes later, I had pain then pins and needles sensation running up my neck and along left jaw. At that point, I knew this wasn't gall bladder, and within 30 minutes of first symptoms I was in the ER. Have been on medication ever since, but no second attack. For women, just remember there doesn't have to be an elephant sitting on your chest for you to have suffered a heart attack. Report
I had a heart attack at 45. I went to the ER with chest pain in the center of my breastbone. They told me I was having a gallbladder attack and sent me home, because I was 45, female, fat and with family history of them. The 4 F's they called. I was given a GI cocktail and it took away the pain. I went and tried to eat but couldn't. Two days later I returned to the doctor and was told the same thing and was given another GI cocktail and sent home. The next morning at 3 a m, the pain was back and would not go away. I begun to break a sweat, but I was never weak and got sick and and threw up a little. I walk into the ER on my own. This time the told me I had already had a massive heart attack. I was to the cath lab and now have a stent. I have a family history of heart attacks, brother, father,grandfather, and uncles. I am the only female. So make sure if you go to the ER, that they also check for a heart attack. You should be kept over night at least for observation. They always do now. But hind sight is 20/20. Report

in an age of over treatment over testing and ingorance on women particular need as women to heart teatment and prosedures it is deifintly let the buyer beware.

Reply to tragni's comment. Here is the whole content of the article:
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
Chest pain or discomfort has long been seen as the most common early warning sign of a heart attack. But recent research has raised questions about whether this holds true for women. A new study looked at the available evidence and concluded that chest pain is the most common sign of heart attack for most women.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among U.S. women. It affects 1 in 10 females over age 18. In light of the recent uncertainty about heart attack symptoms in women, NIH-funded researchers examined 69 studies published over 35 years. The studies ranged from large clinical trials to smaller studies and patient interviews.

Taken together, the studies showed that the majority of women—two-thirds to three-quarters—had chest discomfort with heart attack. In addition, the authors found that women seem to report a wider range of symptoms than men. These include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite and dizziness.

Although chest pain may be the most common sign of heart attack for most women, experts recommend that any new symptoms be promptly evaluated. Surveys suggest that more women are now aware that heart disease is their leading killer, but many still don’t take their risk of heart disease personally and seriously.

Wise Choices
Heart Attack Signs

Fast action can save lives. Everyone should know these warning signs of a heart attack:

Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath often comes along with chest discomfort, but it also can occur before chest discomfort.
Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Note that women have a wider range of symptoms thatn men, and only 2/3 of women had chest pain and discomfort. We cannot ignore the other 1/3. Just looking at the statistics that women are more likely than men to die of a first heartache and that the treatment of women with the same severity of symptoms as men is much less aggressive tells us that relying on the old collection of symptoms is not working.

D Born, Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

This article has really frightened me. How do you know if what you're experiencing is a heart attack or merely a panic attack or something harmless like indigestion?
Panic attacks can give you the sort of symptoms this article describes and make you feel like you are having a heart attack or going to die, but I have been assured that they are harmless. However now I'm worried that it could be a real heart attack if this happens? Report

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