By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
What do you think a heart attack looks like? Most people would be able to list off some of the most commonly known symptoms: chest pain, shooting pains in the left arm and shortness of breath. But did you know that these are the symptoms most often associated with heart attacks in male patients? Not enough people understand that heart attacks can present very differently in women, which can be dangerous.
As February is Heart Month and we are about to pass into March, which is Women’s Month, we thought this was the perfect time to brush up on our knowledge of heart disease in women and how it can present.
Heart attack symptoms are frequently seen as being less dramatic in female patients and they can take a longer period of time to develop. Many women who suffer cardiac arrest report feeling fatigued for a long period of time, experience dizziness, nausea and other flu-like symptoms. Men, on the other, tend to have localised pain in the chest and the left arm. When women do experience localised pain then it tends to be in the neck, jaw or both arms. All of this adds up to the fact that women who are in cardiac distress are sometimes misdiagnosed because their catalogue of ailments doesn’t always add up to a clear picture.
There is also a false perception that women don’t have heart attacks or that, if they do, they’re exceedingly rare. In fact, in the United States, it is the leading cause of death for women, killing 289,758 women in 2013. Approximately the same number of women as men pass away each year as a result of heart disease. Worryingly, women who do suffer heart attacks are disproportionately more likely to die than men as a result of heart disease.
While most women who suffer heart attacks are in their 70s when they first have an episode, there is an increasing trend of younger women being hospitalised for this. The American Heart Association recently found that women between the age of 35 and 54 had a 10 per cent rise in hospital admission rates for heart attacks, versus men’s 3 per cent, in the 2010-14 up from the 1995-99 period.
This means that it is vital to know what a heart attack in yourself or your loved ones might look like. Knowledge is power and will enable you to advocate for yourself in time of need.
As with most disease, prevention is the best course of action. You can reduce your chance of heart disease by avoiding or giving up smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and fitness regimen. Those women who are at most risk for heart disease include diabetics, those who are menopausal, obese and under great emotional or mental strain.
If you want to take strides to improving your heart health, check out this article with some top tips and suggestions. You can also talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have any particular concerns about your heart health and how to address them.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.