Younger Women Miss Heart Attack Signs
Misunderstood Symptoms Noted by Women Aged 55 and Younger Who've Had Heart Attacks
May 2, 2008 -- Heart attack symptoms sometimes
get missed or dismissed by women aged 55 and younger, a new study shows.
The study included 30 women aged 55 and younger (average age: 48) who had
had heart attacks. The women were interviewed within a week of leaving the
hospital after their heart attack.
In those interviews, the women talked about their initial recognition of
their symptoms -- and what they did about those symptoms.
Here are the obstacles the women had in recognizing their symptoms:
- They thought they were too young to be having a heart attack.
- They had atypical symptoms that lasted for more than a day.
- They chalked up their symptoms to other conditions, not to a heart
While some women sought treatment straight away, others hesitated for a
broad range of reasons, including uncertainty, preference for self-medication,
a perception of negative treatment from health care providers, and even being
too busy to get their symptoms checked right away.
"Young women described a complex internal dialogue as they decided when
to engage the health care system," write the researchers, who included
Judith Lichtman, PhD, MPH.
The women also noted that health care workers didn't always immediately
recognize the fact that they were having a heart attack.
The findings were presented on May 1 in Baltimore at the American Heart
Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease
and Stroke Conference 2008.
Heart Attacks in Women
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer
of U.S. women. And while
heart disease among women becomes more common after menopause, it can --
and does -- affect younger women.
Every year in the U.S., heart disease kills about 16,000 young women and
accounts for 40,000 hospitalizations in young women, according to the American
For both women and men, heart attack symptoms can include:
- Squeezing chest
pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in chest
- Pain spreading to shoulders, neck, arm, or jaw
- Feeling of heartburn or indigestion with or without nausea and vomiting
- Sudden dizziness or brief loss of consciousness
Heart attack symptoms that are more likely to occur in women include:
- Indigestion or gas-like pain or nausea
- Unexplained dizziness, weakness, or fatigue
- Discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades
- Recurring chest discomfort
- Sense of impending doom
Those symptoms don't always indicate a heart attack, but the stakes are too
high to take chances. Call 911 at the first sign of a possible heart