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According to statistics gathered by the American Heart Association, more than 80 million Americans have one or more forms of cardiovascular problems, with the principle offender being heart disease 1. This year, more than 1.26 million Americans will suffer from a recurring or new heart attack--most from a lack of blood supply to the heart 2.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Whether you have been through one before or experiencing your first heart attack, it is imperative that you recognize its early symptoms 3. It can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms and requires immediate medical care.
Common Warning Signs
Thanks to the media, television, magazines and educational programs, the American public has become well educated on the common warning signs of coronary artery disease--a disease that is responsible for blocking the blood flow to the heart 2. The most common symptoms are crushing pressure to the chest, pain down the left arm and jaw, indigestion, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Elderly Women
Many adults, especially women, can experience heart attack symptoms associated with a blockage of blood to the heart that are often confused with indigestion and other maladies 23. When the coronary arteries become partially occluded, they can still provide minimal blood supply to the heart, so the symptoms are confused with indigestion, muscle pain or shortness of breath 3. Since the blood supply is not completely occluded, they symptoms can frequently disappear on their own and return at a later time--symptoms that the public does not usually associate with a heart attack 3. If there is a complete interruption of blood flow to the heart, then the patient must receive medical care within minutes. Once the blood flow to the heart ceases, the heart muscle begins to die, resulting in permanent (even though not complete) damage.
Heart Blockage Symptoms in Women
While many people are familiar with heart attack symptoms in men, they often do not correctly interpret the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women 23. Many women do not suffer from the severe, crushing pressure that threatens men. Instead, they suffer from indigestion, gas, nausea and vomiting that can last days, weeks and months. Their symptoms can appear, then go away on their own, so the sufferer confuses them with something else and fails to seek medical attention. According to the Women's Heart Foundation, women who are at high risk of heart disease or have a family history of heart disease, should seek immediate medical care whenever they experience unexplained symptoms 3.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Elderly Women
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- Cardiovascular disease statistics
- Warning signs of heart attack
- Heart attack symptoms for women
- Lichtman JH, Leifheit EC, Safdar B, et al. Sex Differences in the Presentation and Perception of Symptoms Among Young Patients With Myocardial Infarction: Evidence from the VIRGO Study (Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes of Young AMI Patients). Circulation. 2018;137(8):781-790. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.031650.x
- Jackson MN, Mcculloch BJ. 'Heart attack' symptoms and decision-making: the case of older rural women. Rural Remote Health. 2014;14:2560.
- Benjamin EJ, Virani SS, Callaway CW, et.al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2018 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2018;137:e67–e492. doi:0.1161/CIR.0000000000000558
- Body R, Carley S, Wibberley C, et al. The Value of Symptoms and Signs in the Emergent Diagnosis of Acute Coronary Syndromes. Resuscitation. 2010 Mar;81(3):281-6. doi:10.1016/j.resuscitation.2009.11.014
- Cedars-Sinai. Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction).
- Cleveland Clinic. Women: Don’t Ignore These 3 Subtle Heart Attack Symptoms. Mar 3, 2016.
- Fanaroff AC, Rymer JA, Goldstein SA, et al. Does This Patient With Chest Pain Have Acute Coronary Syndrome?: The Rational Clinical Examination Systematic Review. JAMA. 2015 Nov 10;314(18):1955-65. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.12735
- Mehta LS, Becki TM, DeVon HA. Acute Myocardial Infarction in Women: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation.Circulation. 2016;133:916–947. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000351
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Heart Attack.
- Thygesen K, Alpert JS, Jaffe AS, et al. Third Universal Definition of Myocardial Infarction. Circulation. Oct 16, 2012;126:2020–2035. doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e31826e1058
Allen Smith is an award-winning freelance writer living in Vail, Colo. He writes about health, fitness and outdoor sports. Smith has a master's degree in exercise physiology and an exercise specialist certification with the American College of Sports Medicine at San Diego State University.