Every once in a while I feel the need to remind my retired (or some day retired) readers that we are getting older. And with age comes changes in our health. I know it isn’t fun to think about, but there have been so many discoveries and procedures discovered just in our lifetimes that it is important to know about new breakthroughs that can be critical to our future health and welfare.
Perhaps the most relevant news for women is that the medical profession has come to realize that the signs of heart disease for women are different from that for men. While we may have all seen the Hollywood version of men suffering from a sudden heart attack, such as a pain in the chest or shortness of breath, it turns out the signs of an impending heart attack for women is quite different. The standard tests for men just don’t work for women.
Did you know that women are more likely to die from heart disease than men and are more likely to have a second heart attack as well?
No matter if you are male or female, it important to know the symptoms of a heart attack for yourself and for women in your life. Too many women don’t recognize them and lose valuable time thinking “it is just a small pain, nothing to worry about.” Not only that, but many of heart attack symptoms for women can be confused with other illness.
So here are some warning signs from the Harvard Women’s Health Watch:
• Pain in the arm, back, neck or shoulder or abdomen. Many women confuse these with muscle pain from sports or other activities and don’t think of them as being heart related.
• Feeling light headed or dizzy. Sometimes confused with signs of dehydration, it may be a sign that there is something else going on.
• Unusual or overwhelming fatigue. Don’t think this is just because you haven’t had enough sleep.
• Nausea and vomiting. Often confused with flu or food poisoning.
• Pain in the jaw or throat.
In addition to knowing about these symptoms, it is important to have certain tests if you have a history of heart ailments in your family. Angiograms find cholesterol plaques that form on the blood vessel walls and create blockages. In men, these plaques tend to bulge from the wall, whereas with women, the plaque is flatter and may not be detected. Women are more likely to have microvascular disease which is the narrowing of tributaries of the coronary arteries. Again, they may be too small to show up on an angiogram.
To be sure your heart is healthy, consider asking your physician about a nuclear stress test or stress echocardiogram. And stay heart healthy by exercising, eating a healthy diet and not smoking. And stay informed about new tests and procedures for women. Knowledge is your best defense.