Monday, March 02, 2009

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women Can Appear Differently!

Instead of having chest pain, a 70 year-old woman was overwhelmed by dizziness before breaking out into a cold sweat. She alerted her son and immediately she was admitted to the hospital. Yes, she had a heart attack.

While pain, tightness or discomfort in the chest is commonly experienced by most heart attack patients, women may get symptoms quite different from these. For example, dizziness, nausea and even indigestion-like discomfort. It was estimated that about one-third of patients, who are elderly and female, might experience atypical symptoms during a heart attack.

A possible explanation is that most women suffer from heart attacks at an older age than men do. The physiology of ageing could make the chest pain in these women not as intense as that in younger patients. Therefore, other atypical symptoms may be predominant during an attack. Too often, these symptoms can be ignored or just go unrecognized. Studies have shown that up to one third of the heart attacks can go unrecognized in women, comparing to one quarter in men.

Central chest pain lasting more than 20 to 30 minutes is considered as one of the major criteria for heart attack diagnosis. Doctors might not consider a heart attack as the diagnosis if there are other symptoms presented. Moreover, a heart attack could frequently be confused with indigestion or an anxiety attack.

If a person already has some known risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol or smoking, and feels persistently unwell with the symptoms indicated above, he or she should see a doctor at once for a more detailed evaluation. In fact, a simple ECG or EKG (electrocardiogram) can always diagnose a heart attack even if the symptoms are non-specific.

Although heart attacks do occur suddenly without any obvious preceding symptoms, some patients may notice increasing frequency or severity of certain symptoms. For instance, some might have chest pains on exertion or even at rest, while others might feel more breathless than usual when doing their normal daily activities.

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