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Women and Heart Disease

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Even people with good health habits, though, aren't always immune. "Heart attacks often strike with little warning," says David Herrington, MD, associate professor of medicine and cardiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "Knowing the signs of an attack can help you recognize the emergency and get lifesaving treatment in time."

The most common signs of a heart attack, according to the AHA are:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, or arms
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath

Women often experience these signs:

  • Atypical chest pain, stomach, or abdominal pain
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness, or fatigue
  • Palpitations, cold sweat, or paleness

If you have any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately and assertively ask for tests used to diagnose a heart attack, says Herrington. If it isn't a heart attack after all, you've lost nothing. But if it is, the time it takes to get treatment may make the difference between life and death.

Michele Bloomquist is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore., who specializes in women's health issues.

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