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03 February 2010 @ 01:05 pm
February is Heart Health Month  
Once again it is heart health month.

Of course my main focus is on educating women about heart health and risk factors. It is still the number one killer of women and I'd like to put a dent in that! Throughout the month I'll be sharing useful information.

Here's an interesting article about how women's heart attack symptoms differ from those of men and some of the early warning signs to look for in the days or months before a heart attack. I was able to get diagnosed before I had a heart attack and get the necessary medical intervention because I knew my family history and paid attention to the symptoms. I also knew that being 42 at the time was no guarantee that my symptoms weren't heart-related. NEVER discount the possibility of a heart attack or serious blockage of your arteries just because of your age! The number of women in their 30s and 40s having heart attacks has gone up in the past decade. If a doctor doesn't take your concerns seriously, see another doctor, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors.


Among the 515 women studied, 95-percent said they knew their symptoms were new or different a month or more before experiencing their heart attack, or Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI). The symptoms most commonly reported were unusual fatigue (70.6-percent), sleep disturbance (47.8-percent), and shortness of breath (42.1-percent).

Many women never had chest pains
Surprisingly, fewer than 30% reported having chest pain or discomfort prior to their heart attacks, and 43% reported have no chest pain during any phase of the attack. Most doctors, however, continue to consider chest pain as the most important heart attack symptom in both women and men.

Prior to heart attack:

# Unusual fatigue - 70%
# Sleep disturbance - 48%
# Shortness of breath - 42%
# Indigestion - 39%
# Anxiety - 35%

Major symptoms during the heart attack include:

# Shortness of breath - 58%
# Weakness - 55%
# Unusual fatigue - 43%
# Cold sweat - 39%
# Dizziness - 39%
milimodmilimod on February 3rd, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
My mom died of arteriosclerotic heart disease and I doubt that she was ever diagnosed by a cardiologist. So sad. Our last conversation, she was so short of breath, it sounded like she'd done laps across a football field but had barely walked across the room. Several years later, my female boss was gasping the same way (like mom, she was a heavy smoker). I asked her if she'd talked to a doctor about her heart; she kind of waved me off and said she'd be having a stress test in a week or two. The very next morning we arrived at work to hear that she'd been hospitalized with a heart attack. Fortunately, it was relatively mild and she recovered. But she didn't stop smoking, even though she said she would. It's funny how often people cast about looking for exotic ailments, when their symptoms indicate problems with the most basic life-sustaining part of the body.

Thanks for the post.
Tapatitapati on February 4th, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)

I am so sorry you had to learn about this by losing your mom! So many women, gone before their time...it's a crying shame. It's one thing to do what you can to be aware and die in spite of it. It's another for your family to be left wondering how long they might have had you if you'd taken it seriously.

A lot of women dismiss these early warning symptoms because they think, "I'm just slowing down because I'm getting older."

It is not normal at any age to suddenly be extra-tired, out of breath, dizzy, and have more digestive upset than usual. Getting it checked out can mean saving heart muscle and avoiding the long term effects of a damaged heart. I wish women could wake up and take this seriously!

My mom also was a heavy smoker and we had our first bypass surgeries at the same age--42--but by the time she was this far post op she had a second bypass. She never quit smoking. I know it's difficult to do and yet it drove me crazy watching her smoke.

Maybe you mentioning heart disease to your boss helped her decide to go in early enough to survive. Good job!

Thank you for sharing your story. It might very well save a life someday.
Matrinkamatrinka69 on February 4th, 2010 02:04 am (UTC)
Women waking up is only half of it, though.

Doctors have to stop dismissing our concerns out of hand, and they do.

My Mom died of congestive heart failure after fighting heart disease for 18 years. Her initial diagnosis took 18 months and EIGHTEEN MAJOR HEART ATTACKS, and no telling how many minor heart attacks. She never once described pain in the chest, just pressure, breathlessness and this weird deadness that went down her arm and up into her jaw.

The better part of a quarter of a century the differences in presentation of women and men in heart attack have been KNOWN. Not suspected, known. Doctors simply don't believe women when we report heart issues. They don't take our concerns about much of anything seriously. Unless a woman walks in with a limb off or otherwise bleeding all over the place, we don't get the treatment we need.

And even then, we don't get the treatment that men would presenting with precisely the same symptoms.

Tapatitapati on February 5th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
Yes it's very true and one of the things that Womenheart.org is trying to change! I was lucky I got a doc who listened to my family history and took my symptoms seriously.
rainbowbabiesrainbowbabies on February 4th, 2010 06:39 am (UTC)
Very important info
thank you for posting this. we all need to know these things.