Heart attacks are no doubt serious and something you likely don’t want to think about, but did you know that your risk of a heart attack goes up after menopause?
I know this is something I think about because I have a strong family history of premature heart disease. It is important to realize that women can and do have attacks. Before menopause, you do have some hormonal protection. However, after menopause, women’s risks are just as great as men. It is also important to realize that our symptoms can be different than men, though.
What are the typical signs and symptoms of heart attack?
- Chest pain or discomfort, that may radiate down one arm
- Pain in other parts of the body (neck, jaw, back, shoulders, arms)
- Shortness of breath
Although women can present with these typical signs and symptoms of a heart attack, there is also the possibility of having symptoms that go misdiagnosed because they are perceived as atypical. This is because women tend to be more likely than men to have complaints of other symptoms that are not related to chest pain. Often, women’s heart attack symptoms are vaguer and less obvious.
What is the most common heart attack symptom in women?
Like men, women’s most common complaint that signals a heart attack is still chest pain or discomfort. In women, this pain can be anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side.
Other Symptoms That Could Indicate Heart Attack In Women
Pain in the back or jaw (it can also be in the arms or neck)
You may notice that the pain comes and goes, and varies in intensity. It may be severe enough to wake you up at night. If you are experiencing any pain from the waist up that is unusual for you, be sure to consult a physician right away.
Pain Or Pressure In The Stomach, Nausea, And/Or Vomiting
This kind of pain or pressure can often be confused with reflux (heartburn) and is not relieved with antacids, so be sure to get it checked out if it is not getting better. The pressure may even feel like someone is sitting on top of you, squeezing the air out of you.
Breaking Out In Cold Sweats
This kind of sweating is common in women experiencing heart attacks. It is not related to menopausal hot flashes, and you have not been doing anything that would cause you to be sweating like you are.
Extreme Fatigue And Exhaustion
When it feels like a chore to do even the simplest of tasks, keep in mind that you could be having a heart attack. Often, it is described as a feeling of fatigue that never seems to go away.
Lightheadedness, And/Or Shortness Of Breath
You may find that you are having trouble breathing for no reason, even when just staying still or walking. You may feel like you have just exercised, and you have not. Again, seek immediate help.
Do only older women have heart attacks?
No! Women can have heart attacks before they are forty years old, particularly those with certain risk factors including:
- Obesity or overweight
- Use of birth-control pills in high-risk individuals
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Lack of exercise
So, what is the next step?
It is not healthy to start worrying about when you could possibly have a heart attack. This will only cause more stress, which negatively impacts your heart. However, it is important to realize that women do have heart attacks.
To reduce your risk, identify your risk factors, and then take steps to lower that risk.
In conclusion, even if you are not experiencing chest pain, do not dismiss the idea that it could be a heart attack. Always seek medical advice quickly, and remember that what you are experiencing could be misdiagnosed, so be sure to be your own best advocate.