Ask anyone what the primary symptom of a heart attack is, and they’re likely to say “chest pain.” While this can be true, it’s not the only symptom, especially for women. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., but many women don’t recognize when a heart attack is happening because their symptoms can differ widely from men’s.
“People make the mistake of ignoring symptoms,” said James G. Dwyer, MD, FACC, FSCAI, Cardiologist, YRMC PhysicianCare Cardiology in Prescott Valley. “Women especially need to be more aware of the symptoms of a heart attack. Women tend to be tougher. They tend to ignore things more than the guys when it comes to their hearts.”
Dr. Dwyer advises women to:
Know the symptoms of heart attack.
Watch for upper back pain, neck/jaw/throat pain, cold sweats, indigestion, heartburn, nausea and/or vomiting, extreme fatigue or shortness of breath. Many women simply dismiss these symptoms but they should be taken very seriously.
“If last week, you could go for your walk, and this week you’re having more discomfort and breathlessness as you are walking—this is something that you should have checked,” Dr. Dwyer said.
Don’t assume that your blood pressure is “okay.”
High blood pressure, just like high cholesterol, is a silent condition that can lead to heart disease. Be sure to have your doctor check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar readings regularly and make this a lifelong habit. Healthy blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, is a reading of less than 120 over less than 80.
Understand that silent heart attacks can happen.
It’s true. You can have a heart attack without knowing it. People who’ve experienced silent heart attack often rationalized the symptoms, dismissing them as indigestion, the flu, a pulled muscle in their chest or upper back or they just were more fatigued than usual. Misreading these symptoms puts your heart at greater risk as it delays medical treatment. Know the symptoms of heart attack and seek medical care for them immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Now that you know the risks, what should you do to prevent heart attack? According to Dr. Dwyer, the first step is to talk to your physician about your individual risk for heart attack.
For this and more, many turn to the team at YRMC PhysicianCare Cardiology. Available throughout the Quad Cities, cardiologists at YRMC PhysicianCare Cardiology collaborate with other heart specialists to form the community’s only comprehensive and coordinated heart program. YRMC’s heart program provides individualized care and offers you access to:
- Top cardiologists, heart surgeons, interventional cardiologists, interventional radiologists and other specialists trained at nationally recognized programs.
- Heart surgery and non-invasive heart procedures through the James Family Heart Center at YRMC.
- One of Arizona’s only Hybrid Operating Room suites where specialists combine state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging and exceptional surgical services.
- Cardiac electrophysiology to diagnose and treat irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
- Advanced diagnostic services in convenient locations.
- Cardiac rehabilitation services individually tailored to help people return to life following surgery and illness.
- Free wellness and health education programs to keep your heart healthy.
Don’t have a physician? Contact YRMC’s Physician Referral Service at (928) 771-5106.