Ask a woman to list her top health concerns and if she’s like many, heart disease won’t be No. 1. Yet heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. In fact, one in three heart attack patients at JPS Health Network is a woman.
Today is Go Red for Women Day, an American Heart Association campaign that’s contributed to increased awareness among women. “But there a dichotomy,” said cardiologist Paul Bhella, MD, director of Cardiac Imaging at JPS. “Some women are very attentive and are aware that for them the first symptom of a heart attack might not be a traditional symptom. Others are so busy taking care of others, and are less in-tune.”
Recognizing the signs of a heart attack is important because the amount of permanent heart damage that occurs is largely dependent on how quickly treatment begins. Women who are unaware, “might miss the golden hour,” Bhella said.
Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women, but women are more likely to have other symptoms. Symptoms of a heart attack in women, according to the American Heart Association:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Anyone who thinks they may be having a heart attack is urged to call 911 immediately.
John Peter Smith Hospital treated 328 people for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) — heart attack — in the 12-month period ending in September. Of those, 105 were women.
JPS is AMI certified by The Joint Commission, recognized for providing best-available care to give heart attack patients their best shot at survival and full recovery.