Typically, women think of heart disease as a potential threat for males and end up ignoring many symptoms of the same in themselves. The main reason for this is a lack of awareness about the symptoms and the causes of cardiovascular disorders. As per data from The Heart Foundation, 90% women are unaware about high cholesterol being a threat to their hearts. Several women end up blaming their physicians for their limited knowledge of possible risks, which makes them mistake the symptoms of heart-related disorders for a panic disorder or a stress attack.
‘Nearly one-third of female heart patients experience chest pain a month before they have a heart attack, but they fail to understand the symptoms.’
In fact, almost a third of female heart patients experience chest pain in the month before they have a heart attack. Sadly, they fail to understand the symptoms and do not take necessary precautions.
To empower women with the right medical knowledge and help them take corrective steps when the warning signs of a heart attack become apparent, Mahesh Jayaraman, Medical Researcher, Therapist, Health Advisor and Co-founder of health platform Sepalika.com, and Dr Manthan Mehta, Specialty Medical Officer, Dept of Pharmacology, TNMC and Nair Hospital, have listed down some points.
5 Warning Signs of a Heart Attack in Women
1. Is fatigue bothering you? The AHA survey revealed that fatigue is the biggest signal of an oncoming heart issue amongst women. Prior to a heart attack, 70% women experienced weakness even without exerting themselves. While fatigue can often be ignored as a common part of the ageing process, unexplained fatigue can be a warning sign of a heart attack. Fatigue that does not go away even after adequate rest and sleep needs to be addressed. What's the connection between fatigue and heart attack? Well, one of the causes of fatigue is the heart not pumping enough blood. As a result, the cells do not get sufficient oxygen to burn fuel and generate energy.
2. Unable to sleep properly? Ever wondered why your sleep is interrupted often? While work-related issues or other issues can often result in sleep disturbances, if there are no such apparent reasons then you cannot rule out the risk of a cardiovascular disease. A weak heart decreases oxygen levels in the body, which may lead to insomnia or unexplained bouts of waking up at night.
3. Trouble in breathing? If you often have to exert more effort than usual while breathing, then it could be a sign of a heart trouble. Women who are overweight and do not indulge in any physical activities may experience shortness of breath even while lying down or walking. If you're experiencing such symptoms, get yourself tested to ensure your heart is healthy.
4. Experiencing severe stomach pain? A heart attack may not always start with chest pain; it can start with a pain in the upper abdomen as well. The pain can worsen and spread up to your left shoulder and arm. A sharp pain in the stomach could be a sign of an impending heart attack.
5. Is it anxiety that's bothering you? Anxiety attacks can occur unexpectedly, and can leave you shaken. The symptoms you may experience are shortness of breath, sweating, numbness of hands and feet, which could be indicators of an unknown heart problem. Such bouts of anxiety can occur due to improper distribution of oxygen in the body, especially to the brain, and must not be ignored.
Risk Factors of Heart Attack in Women
Some of the traditional risk factors for heart disease amongst women are high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and menopause, due to lower levels of estrogens, stress, depression and obesity. These factors have a bigger role in the development of heart diseases in women as compared to men. Also, women who smoke are at a higher risk of getting heart disease 19 years sooner than non-smokers.
In India, both men and women are at an equal risk of heart attacks. However, women tend to disregard the warnings as age-related problems. This tendency needs to be curbed through proper education and awareness building. Women need to understand that they are as prone to heart disease as their husbands, fathers or brothers. Any time a warning sign crops up, they must take it seriously and visit the appropriate medical practitioner in time.