Fact: Women deny they are having heart attacks
Fact: Women have different signs of heart attacks
Fact: Doctors take women less seriously
These unfortunate facts blend together into a perfect storm making heart attacks the number one cause of death for women in the United States.
A large part of teaching CPR classes is busting myths we pick up from our daily lives, and mostly from the media. A large myth about heart attacks is that victims of heart attacks are always old fat guys. In all seriousness, this is a huge myth. Heart attacks strike anyone, anytime and of course, anywhere. What is especially disconcerting is that women having heart attacks can have symptoms that are different and quite elusive.
According to the American Heart Association, women can certainly have the usual chest pain, and pain in the left shoulder or arm while suffering from a heart attack. The problem is that many times, women will deny they are having any trouble at all. Heart attacks are often misinterpreted by women who just think they aren’t at risk. Indigestion is most often the reported symptom of heart attacks for women.
Besides denial, the following off-the-radar symptoms can be present in women suffering Heart Attacks:
- Pain in both arms
- Pain in the back, like a stitch or pulled muscle between the shoulder blades
- Radiating pain in the neck or jaw
- Pain or discomfort in the stomach
Many times while teaching this in CPR classes, women will raise their hands and comment that they could experience any of those symptoms any given day of the week. I believe them, and that’s what makes this so concerning.
My advice is that if you have these symptoms along with feeling faint, fatigued, experiencing a cold sweat or simply feeling “Fluish” or really off, take it seriously.
If you think you are having a heart attack, do the following:
- Call 911
- Chew an aspirin (significantly reduces death rate during heart attacks)
- Make sure you are taken seriously
Differing symptoms experienced by women having heart attacks contributes to them being the number one cause of death for women in the United States. If you are a woman, be empowered to seek the help you need should you think you are having a heart attack.