Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

I know that posting an excerpt from an article is not what I typically do, but I read this this morning and was struck with its importance. Early in the article the shocking statistic was presented that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, more than all cancers combined. Even many doctors are not aware of this fact, and will often dismiss a woman’s heart attack symptoms. Here, then, is the excerpt for your consideration:

A so-called “silent killer,” coronary artery disease
can strike when a woman least expects. According to the American Heart Association, you should always be alert to these “classic” or most common warning signs of heart attack:

• Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back

• Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms

• Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath

As a woman, you may have other, LESS COMMON warning signs of heart attack:

• Stomach pain

• Nausea or dizziness

• Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue

• Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness. Common warning signs of stroke (brain attack):

• Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body.

• Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye

• Loss of speech, or trouble talking and understanding speech

• Sudden, severe headaches with no known or apparent cause

• Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls, particularly in conjunction with any of the other listed stroke symptoms

Especially if any of the above warning signs are severe or exacerbated by physical exertion, make a beeline for the nearest emergency room. New treatments can reduce or prevent damage from the attack, but only if you get prompt help.

Further Resources

The American Heart Association offers age-appropriate information about heart disease in women. Call their toll-free number 888-MY-HEART.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a free brochure for women with high blood pressure, a common risk factor for heart disease. To get a copy, call toll-free 800-575-WELL.

National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease

This non-profit promotes education and awareness about women with heart disease. Its site offers bulletin boards, journal entries, caregiver support sections, and articles on managing heart disease.

Reviewed by Matthew Sorrentino, MD, FACC, a cardiologist and associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Chicago. Dr. Sorrentino also reviews consumer-oriented publications on heart disease for the American Medical Association.

First published May 15, 2001

Last updated November 7, 2007

Copyright © 2001 Consumer Health Interactive

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