Heart attack symptoms may not look as dramatic in women as they do in men, but they are just as threatening. A man experiencing a heart attack may suddenly grab his chest, double over in pain and collapse. Women do not typically experience these intense symptoms. Instead, the attack may be mistaken for a bad case of indigestion or they may feel a heaviness or pressure on the chest. Women may also notice other subtle symptoms, including:
- Arm and shoulder pain
- Discomfort in the jaw
- Shortness of breath
The chance of having a heart attack can increase due to certain risk factors, such as other medical conditions, genetics and lifestyle choices. Risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
People of certain races are also more at risk, including:
- American Indians
Additionally, while most heart attacks occur after age 65, men are more likely to have a heart attack before age 65. Women should pay close attention to subtle warning signs of a heart attack if they take birth control pills or are postmenopausal and not taking estrogen replacement therapy.
Cutting-Edge Cardiac Technology
Altru’s Heart & Vascular team is continually advancing care to ensure those at risk for heart disease can take action to prevent heart attacks. In April 2016, Altru installed a Toshiba Aquilion™ ONE ViSION 640-slice computed tomography (CT) scanner, a dynamic volume system capable of almost instantaneously scanning the heart of patients with resting heart rates up to 75 beats per minute. “The scanner provides images with a very low dose of radiation,” says Joe Gemmill, manager of CT, MRI and Nuclear Medicine. “This technology helps our cardiology team capture clear, intricate images of the heart and coronary arteries. The people in the Red River Valley now have access to a world-class CT scanner close to home.”
What You Can Do
Talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors for heart attack and follow preventive measures to keep your heart healthy. Prevention methods include:
- Exercise regularly. Thirty minutes a day is the recommended minimum.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet complete with whole-grains, lean protein, fruits and veggies.
- Don’t smoke. If you need help quitting, look to Altru’s tobacco cessation program for guidance.
- Manage your stress. Practice mindfulness or stress-reducing activities such as yoga or meditation. Even five minutes of meditation each day can greatly reduce stress and improve your health. (Learn how Dr. Aboufakher incorporates meditation into his daily life.)
Keep your heart in check. Learn how we can help at altru.org/heart.