Hidden Heart Attack Signs in WomenBy RealAgePage 1 of 2
As a woman, you may feel that a heart attack is not the greatest risk you face. But the threat is very real, especially in the years leading up to and following menopause, when hormonal changes can open the door to heart disease. Knowing the symptoms that women often experience during the early stages of cardiac troubles, as well as your risk factors for cardiovascular disease, can significantly increase your chances of survival.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading killer of women in America, accounting for over one-third of all deaths. That’s more than the combined death rates from breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers.
Heart Attack Warnings Can Be Subtle
Studies on cardiac events in women reveal that many women may experience prodromal — or early — symptoms of cardiac distress in the days, weeks, or even months leading up to a heart attack. Unfortunately, many of these signs may be dismissed as nothing out of the ordinary — by both women and their doctors. The most common early warning signs include:
Unusual fatigue — Fatigue is a common complaint and one that may indicate that you’re simply missing out on sleep, fighting a virus, overextending yourself, or experiencing a side effect to medication. But unusual or extreme fatigue may also be a warning sign of heart disease. In one study, more than 70% of the women surveyed experienced marked fatigue in the days or weeks prior to their heart attacks.
Sleep disturbances — Although it’s not unusual to feel tired due to a lack of sleep or a particularly demanding week or month, you should take special notice of any unusual or prolonged disturbance in your sleep patterns. A recent study revealed that almost half of the women who had recently suffered a heart attack also experienced sleep disturbances in the days or weeks leading up to their attacks.
Shortness of breath during normal daily activities, indigestion, and anxiety may also be early warning signs of cardiac distress in women.
So how do you know if your symptoms are serious? Getting into the habit of noting your typical aches and pains and your normal reactions to foods and activities may help you recognize when something is truly amiss. Also, remember that if you have risk factors for heart disease, you should be especially vigilant about monitoring how you feel. If you experience worrisome or unusual changes in your energy level, comfort, or sleep habits, you should discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider, particularly if you have heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, a smoking habit, or a sedentary lifestyle. (Here are 12 things you can do right now to help prevent a heart attack.)How healthy is your heart? Check your vital statistics and reduce your risk of heart disease with these tips and tools.