Women and Heart Attacks

On The Quick

Women and Heart Attacks

Warning signs are not created equal

By Working Nurse
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Most nurses probably assume they know the symptoms of a heart attack. However, cardiac distress can present differently for women than for men — and missing those signs can be fatal.

Different Symptoms

Although heart attack is more common in men than in women, a 2012 JAMA study found that women’s in-hospital mortality rates following an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) are substantially higher than men’s. One reason is that women’s symptoms aren’t always the same as men’s, leading to life-threatening delays in treatment.

Tightness or pain in the chest is the most common symptom of AMI, but more than 40 percent of women who suffer heart attacks don’t experience chest pain. (Not all men do either, but it’s much more common in men.)

However, women may experience pain in other areas not commonly associated with the heart, such as the jaw, neck, back or either arm. Other warning signs can include unusual anxiety, nausea, fatigue, sudden sweats and shortness of breath. Of course, it’s normal to be out of breath after hauling a new sofa up the stairs, but Cleveland Clinic Women’s Cardiovascular Center Director Leslie Cho, M.D., says women should be concerned if they find themselves winded and/or sweating for no reason, especially if it gets worse while lying down.

Early Warning

It’s also common for women to experience these symptoms for a month or more before an AMI. Unfortunately, they can be easily mistaken for something else or just ignored until it’s too late. Consequently, heart attack is one of the leading killers of American women, accounting for about 50,000 deaths each year in the U.S.

You can learn more about the symptoms of heart attack in women at the websites of the American Heart Association, www.heart.org; Cleveland Clinic, health.clevelandclinic.org; and the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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