Heart attacks in women

Posted on 3 December 2014

Some women experience the symptoms of a heart attack differently than men do so it’s vital to be able to communicate with your doctor effectively about the kind of pain you’re experiencing. Dr Len Steingo, a cardiologist at Mediclinic Morningside, explains what to look for…

Why is it so important for women to accurately be able to describe the pain they’re experiencing, especially in the case of a heart attack?
Simply because the pain sometimes doesn’t present as you’d traditionally expect – it’s vital that you get immediate effective treatment within two hours of the onset of chest pains to minimise the damage to your heart. If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, say so.

What symptoms are women looking for?
Many times, patients – both male and female – suspect they’re having a heart attack when they experience the classic symptoms of a crushing heaviness across the chest area, shortness of breath and a tingling sensation down the left arm. But in some women, there’s none of these typical symptoms – they often experience pain in the neck and jaw, arms and back, along with breathlessness, as well as abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting, and exceptional fatigue. To the untrained eye, these symptoms could be attributed to/mistaken for other medical issues in women – like panic attacks or anxiety, for example – if you’re not specifically looking for a suspected heart attack.

When is it okay to ignore those symptoms?
It’s never okay to ignore any new pain, especially in the chest area. Seek medical advice immediately just to be sure.

Published in Cardiology

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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