February is American Heart Month, so we here at All About Women want to make sure that you know as much as possible about heart attacks in women and how to prevent heart disease, the leading cause of death in both women and men.
Heart Attacks in Women: Different Than in Men
While you might know that heart attacks present differently in women than in men, do you know the specific signs of a heart attack for a woman?
Women may feel extreme chest pressure just like men during a heart attack but they can also have a heart attack without any chest pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Instead of chest pressure, or in addition to it, a woman may also experience:
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the lower chest, upper abdomen, or upper back
- Nausea, vomiting, or breaking out in a cold sweat
- Pain in one or both arms, the neck or jaw.
Some women attribute a heart attack to another cause like stress, the flu, or acid reflux. But if you experience a combination of the above symptoms, you should call 911 immediately.
If you want to see more of what a heart attack could look like for a woman, watch this informative and humorous short film, “Just a Little Heart Attack” produced by actress Elizabeth Banks and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women.
How to Prevent Heart Disease
Heart attacks are just one possible result of coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease in the US. Sometimes called coronary artery disease, coronary heart disease can also cause angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.
While the threat of heart disease is serious and real, the good news is that it’s preventable. Here are four steps you can take today to help lower your risk of heart disease:
1) Know your Personal Risk for Heart Disease. Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to get an assessment of your personal risk for heart disease. Until then, you can also use the Heart Association’s Heart Risk Calculator to view your risk. You’ll need to know your blood pressure and cholesterol readings to complete the calculator.
2) Start Walking. If you don’t exercise, start making your heart healthier today by going for a short walk. Just 30 minutes of walking a day can lower both your risk of heart attack and stroke. New research is also finding that if you can’t fit in a 30-minute walk, three walks that are ten minutes each can also help.
3) Start Smoking Cessation. If you’re a smoker, consider quitting to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than non-smokers. Smoking can also be harmful for women in a number of different ways, from increasing their risk of cervical cancer to reducing their fertility.
4) Get Educated: The more you know about heart disease, its risk factors, and steps for prevention, the more you can take your health into your own hands. Visit Go Red for Women to learn more about heart disease.
The doctors and midwives at All About Women are committed to preventive health care as a way to help women lead healthy and full lives. Partner with us by scheduling your annual well woman exam today.