The heart…what is the first thing you think of when you hear this word? Maybe you thought about love, the color red, or that it is the body’s pump. You might have thought about how your heart is full of love on Valentine’s day. Most likely you did not think of a heart attack and if you did, it is certainly not a pleasant thought. Although a heart attack is something we never want to experience, we need to understand the possible differences in symptoms that men and women may experience so that we can help administer aid quickly. Like the saying goes, “prepare for the worse, and hope for the best.”
This year, COVID-19 has surpassed heart disease as the number one cause of death. So, heart disease is now the second leading cause of death among women and men in the United States as well as globally. Every 36 seconds someone in the United States dies from heart disease and every 40 seconds someone experiences a heart attack.
What are the symptoms of a heart attack? It is important to know that men and women may experience different symptoms. One of the symptoms both men and women will most likely experience is chest pain. However, it is interesting to note that as both men and women get older, they are less likely to experience chest pain. Women’s symptoms may be ignored or overlooked because they can resemble other illnesses. Women are more likely to experience one of the less common symptoms listed below.
Symptoms women would likely experience:
· Jaw pain
· Neck pain
· Unexplained weakness or fatigue
Symptoms both men and women experience:
· Chest pain
· Shortness of breath
· Discomfort in areas of the upper body
It is important to recognize these symptoms because they can be confused with other illnesses. When you think of someone having a heart attack you typically think of severe pain in the chest and left arm like you see on television. The reality is that even though some might experience these symptoms most of the time they are more subtle. This is especially true for women because they experience symptoms that can be mistaken for the flu.
If you or someone you know is experiencing one of these symptoms it is important to act fast. You want to call 911 immediately! The first couple of hours of the heart attack are the most crucial. You want the ambulance to be the one to drive this person to the hospital because they have the equipment necessary to help them.
Steps to help you prevent a heart attack:
· Schedule regular check-ups with your primary care physician and ask about your risk for heart disease
· Start an exercise program
· Change the way you eat. Add more vegetables, whole grains, and more homecooked meals
· If you are a smoker, quitting will decrease your risk of coronary heart disease
Valentine’s Day is a day in which many people show their loved ones how special they are to them by giving them chocolates, candies, flowers, cards or just being with them. As your heart is filled with love, remember knowing these heart attack symptoms is another way to show your loved ones that you care.
Cynthia Morales completed her Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness at Long Beach State University. She loves promoting healthy lifestyle changes and helping people through their own journey to help them reach their wellness goals.