Heart attacks are often thought of as an issue men need to work to prevent. The messages put out in the media are typically aimed at men, and the symptoms they might be experiencing when having a heart attack or stroke.
However, women are more at risk of heart disease, according to the scientific statement published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation in January, 2016.
Researchers found that more women experience heart attacks than men. And for these women who have heart attacks, they have longer hospital stays, more complications, and die from the heart attack at a higher rate than men. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, though it is not something that garners the attention of many.
Though women may have been left out of the media messaging related to heart disease in the past, there is a renewed push to inform women of their risks. The information women need, though, is not the same information that men need.
The symptoms are often not the same for men and women, and this can lead some women to doubt the seriousness of their signs of distress.
The recent scientific statement illustrated that the causes of heart disease in women may be different, with risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes increasing women’s risk.
The outcomes of heart disease also differ between the sexes, often due to the underuse of medications, and decreased recommendation (and completion) of cardiac therapy following an event.
The lack of knowledge as to how heart disease can present differently in men and women can also cause doctors and other medical professionals to be slower to diagnose heart attack symptoms, to be less likely to give female patients adequate care, or to misdiagnose their heart attacks symptoms altogether.
Women should know that the signs of a heart attack can significantly differ in women than in men.
Both men and women may experience pain or discomfort in the chest as one of the first signs of a heart attack. However, women tend to also get shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
If a doctor does not make the connection to a pending heart attack, women may be given inadequate care. Doctors often don’t prescribe medications, such as statins which are typically used to treat the signs of heart disease, to women.
Women need to empower themselves when it comes to their health, especially as it relates to heart disease. Coronary heart disease affects about 6.6 million women in the United States, according to Laxmi Mehta, director of the Women's Cardiovascular Health Program at The Ohio State University Medical Center.
Women should learn how to be their own advocates and understand their own bodies. This knowledge can be the difference in surviving a heart attack or not.
Reviewed February 18, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
“Why Heart Attacks in Women are Often Different than in Men.” WashingtonPost.com. Web. 25 January 2016.