Caring Currents

What the Scary News About Women Dying From Heart Attacks Means for You

Last updated: Mar 18, 2010

Image by peregrine blue used under the creative commons attribution license.

Researchers startled the American College of Cardiology this week by presenting data that show that women die after having heart attacks in much higher numbers than men.

But the real shocker? The reasons why:

"¢ Women are less likely to be screened via angiography
"¢ Women are less likely to receive treatment with angioplasty

This is important because it adds to a growing body of data that shows that women's heart symptoms simply aren't being taken as seriously by doctors - and possibly by women themselves -- as men's.

What really surprised me, for example, was the finding that women are more than twice as likely to die within the month following a heart attack as men. That's the period during which you'd think everyone would be paying the most attention and making sure a woman received adequate diagnosis and treatment.

The experts quoted in the news reports all mentioned that women's heart attack symptoms are different than men's, so it seems timely to repeat this warning.

Here are the typical symptoms women experience just before or during a heart attack:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Sleeplessness or insomnia
  3. Anxiety and stress, sometimes described as a feeling of "impending doom"
  4. Indigestion, nausea or heartburn
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Flu-like symptoms
  7. Jaw, ear, neck, or shoulder pain

Here are the typical male symptoms of heart attack that women may not experience:

  1. Chest Pain
  2. Numbness

If you or a family member is at risk for heart attack due to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other risk factors such as family history of heart disease, it's particularly important to be on the alert for signs of heart disease and heart attack.

What's becoming increasingly apparent is that women need to speak up and advocate for themselves when it comes to getting our heart health taken seriously.

There are a wide variety of medications and treatment techniques available to treat heart problems like atrial fibrillation, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and other conditions that can lead to a fatal heart attack. We women need to make sure our heart symptoms are treated proactively and that we're being offered all available treatment options.