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What would YOUR heart attack symptoms be?

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. A person has a heart attack in the US every 43 seconds. And while you’re probably familiar with some of the signs of heart attacks, it’s likely you don’t know the full range of symptoms. Knowing all the symptoms of a heart attack is vital, the more time passes without treatment to restore blood flow to the heart, the more severe the damage.

Moreover, researchers have estimated that as many as 200,000 Americans experience heart attacks each year without even knowing it. Even a minor heart attack, if untreated, will cause heart damage and increase your risk of future attacks. It is imperative that you can recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack to protect your future health.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack, otherwise known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when part of a muscle in the heart doesn’t get enough blood. The more time passes without the restoration of blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle is caused. Coronary artery disease is the main cause of a heart attack, which is caused by a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the arteries that supply the heart with blood.

Gender differences?

Men and women have different symptoms of heart attacks but the symptoms that we associate with a heart attack are associated with men. Men are more likely to have a heart attack until women reach the age of fifty. Around this age,the risk for heart disease is the same for both men and women. But the symptoms are NOT the same and women need to know this as heart attacks are generally more severe in women than in men.

Women are also more likely to have blockages in not only their main arteries but in smaller ones that supply blood to the heart- a condition called small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease. Small vessel heart disease is associated with different symptoms.

Heart attack symptoms for women:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal discomfort

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pain in one or both arms

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Pain in the chest

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

  • Sweating

  • Indigestion

  • Unusual fatigue

Heart attack symptoms for men:

  • upper body pain or discomfort, back, neck, jaw, or stomach

  • shortness of breath

  • Pain in the left arm and/or shoulder

  • standard chest pain/pressure with a squeezing sensation

  • rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • dizziness or lightheadedness

  • breaking out in a cold sweat

  • stomach discomfort that feels like indigestion

Heart attack risk factors:

Your risk of a heart attack is likely to increase with the following factors:

  • Diabetes- Women with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease than men. Further, because diabetes can alter the way you feel pain, you’re at a greater risk of having a heart attack with no symptoms.

  • Mental stress and depression- Women are more likely to feel physical effects from mental health, especially on their hearts. Such mental health can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  • Smoking- Again, female smokers are more likely to develop heart disease than their male counterparts.

  • Inactivity- A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart attacks. Because men are statistically more physically active than women, it is vital for women to stay physically active.

  • Menopause- Smaller blood vessels are impacted by the low levels of estrogen associated with menopause, making menopausal women more likely to develop heart disease in the smaller vessels.

  • Pregnancy complications- Diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy can increase the mother’s long-term risk of diabetes and high blood pressure- which both increase your likelihood of developing heart disease.

  • Family history of early heart disease- This risk appears to be a greater factor in women than in men.

  • Inflammatory diseases- Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory diseases can increase the risk of heart disease.

When to call 911:

Regardless of your gender, it is vital to immediately call 911 if you have chest pain or discomfort along with any of these symptoms, especially if they last longer than 5 minutes:

  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach.

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

  • Sweating or “cold sweat”.

  • Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn).

  • Nausea or vomiting.

  • Light-headedness, dizziness, extreme weakness, or anxiety.

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats.Reducing your risk of a heart attack:

A Few Prevention Steps

There are steps you can take to mitigate your risk of a heart attack, largely, stop smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and decrease alcohol intake. The American Heart Association has also recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of the two to reduce your risk of a heart attack. This evens out to about 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. You also do not have to do the 30 minutes consecutively- you can break it up into 5 or 10 minutes exercises several times per day until you reach 30 minutes.

For more information on how to lower your risk of heart attack, or to learn how to make long-term lifestyle changes to reach your optimal health, call our office at 276-235-3205 or email us at


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