More Little Known Signs of Heart Attack
Indigestion or nausea. Stomach pain, intestinal cramps, nausea, and digestive disruptions are another sign reported by women heart attack patients. Become familiar with your own digestive habits, and pay attention when anything seems out of whack. Note especially if your system seems upset and you haven't eaten anything out of the ordinary.
Shortness of breath. Of the women in the NIH study, more than 40 percent remembered experiencing this symptom. One of the comments the women made is that they noticed they couldn't catch their breath while walking up the stairs or doing other daily tasks.
Flu-like symptoms. Clammy, sweaty skin, along with feeling lightheaded and weak, can lead women to wonder if they have the flu when, in fact, they're having a heart attack.
Jaw, ear, neck, or shoulder pain. While pain and numbness in the chest, shoulder, and arm is a common sign of heart attack (at least, among men), women often don't experience the pain this way. Instead, many women say they felt pain and a sensation of tightness running along their jaw and down the neck, and sometimes up to the ear, as well. The pain may extend down to the shoulder and arm--particularly on the left side--or it may feel like a backache or pulled muscle in the neck and back.
How to protect yourself or the women you care about
In addition to the symptoms they do have, women differ from men in another significant way -- they may not experience many of the symptoms we traditionally associate with heart attacks. This, experts say, is a major reason why women's heart attacks go unrecognized and untreated. Almost half of all women in the NIH study felt no chest pain, even during the heart attack itself. Numbness is another symptom women may not experience, experts say.
If your body is doing unusual things and you just don't feel "right," don't wait. Go see your doctor and ask for a thorough work-up. And if you have any risk factors for cardiac disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, or family history of heart disease, mention these to the doctor. Time is of the essence, so don't count on medical staff to know your background or read your chart -- tell them your risk factors right away, so your condition can be evaluated fully and completely.