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What Every Woman Should Know About Heart Attacks

What Every Woman Should Know About Heart Attacks

About one in five deaths among women in the United States is due to heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for this gender. We hesitate to lead with frightening statistics such as these, but it’s important to underscore the real and present danger that heart disease poses for women. 

Here at South Mountain Cardiology, our team, including Dr. Nadeem Husain, Patti Cox, MSN, ARNP, and Kim Munneke, MSN, FNP-C, feels that education is extremely important, which is why we want to focus on heart attacks in women in this month’s blog post.

Because the anatomy of the heart doesn’t differ all that greatly between the two sexes, you might think that a heart attack would present itself in the same way. Yes, there are commonalities, but also key differences that we want women to recognize.

Signs of a heart attack in women

One of the primary symptoms of a heart attack is discomfort or pain in the center of your chest, which can feel like pressure, fullness, or squeezing. This symptom can come on suddenly and last for a few minutes, or more, or it can come and go.

Chest pain is something that both men and women share and there isn’t much difference between the two genders when it comes to this symptom.

Men and women can also experience:

Of these symptoms, women are more apt to experience nausea, shortness of breath, and fatigue, which means women should be more vigilant about recognizing these atypical side effects of a heart attack.

As well, women are more likely to develop pain, typically on their left sides, which often strikes in their backs or shoulders.

Nausea is not only more common in women than men, it’s not the only gastrointestinal symptom to watch out for. Some women feel a fullness in their upper abdomens, with or without nausea.

A difference in blood vessels

Many heart attacks are caused by a significant blockage in the coronary artery, but women are more prone to microvascular disease, which can lead to a different type of heart attack — MINOCA. The acronym stands for myocardial infarction with nonobstructive coronary arteries.

What this means is that blockages and damage in the microvasculature in and around your heart can lead to a heart attack that doesn’t involve a major blood vessel.

Another point we’d like to make here is that microvascular disease can lead to chest pain, but the discomfort may or may not signal a heart attack. If you’re experiencing chest pain due to microvascular disease, it’s important to come see us as you are far more susceptible to developing a heart attack.

Prevention is key

We’d now like to draw your attention to another statistic — the World Health Organization states that 80% of premature heart attacks and strokes are preventable.

Our goal, for both women and men, is to prevent a heart attack from occurring in the first place and there are incredibly effective steps that we can take toward that end.

To learn more about prevention or the signs of a heart attack in women, please contact our office in Tempe, Arizona, to set up an appointment.

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