A sharp pain or a tight feeling in the chest, along with shortness of breath . . . By now, most of us have been briefed on the warning signs of a heart attack. But the American Heart Association says those are typical signs of a heart attack in men: for women, they can be different.
According to Teri Arnold, director of marketing and communications for the Association, it isn’t unusual for women to think they’ve come down with the flu.
“It could be a pain in your neck, could be a pain in the jaw, pain in your back, nausea,” she listed. “Sometimes the women have a shortness of breath for a number of weeks and don’t realize that it has something to do with their heart.”
The AHA recommends that all Hoosiers “know their numbers,” with an annual doctor’s visit to check blood pressure, fasting blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and weight. All can indicate risk factors for heart disease, and all can be controlled, to prevent a heart attack.
Arnold remarked that awareness of risk factors and symptoms is key, something that Gail Alexander Wright is now keenly aware of. She suffered a heart attack a few years ago at age 37, and had symptoms for weeks prior to the attack.
“I had pain in the left side of my neck for three weeks straight,” she said. “It would go away, come back, go away, come back, and then the tightening of the jaw, on and off, for three weeks.”
Teri Arnold noted that there are many misconceptions about women and heart disease. Some people assume you have to be older to have a heart attack, or that they’re not common for women. She suggested letting your primary care physician know if there’s a family history of heart trouble, and asking for tests at doctor visits. She added that the AHA is working to educate doctors and hospitals about the risk factors for women.