Heart disease is the No. 1 killer for American men and women, and WebMD reports that it accounts for "40 percent of all U.S. deaths."
When we think of someone having a heart attack, we picture them gripping their chest, wincing in pain and sweating profusely — and that may be accurate for men. But, ladies, don't be fooled: Research shows that many women experience no chest pain at all.
That's right. In a study by the National Institutes of Health, 43 percent of the 515 women surveyed reported having no chest pain during or prior to the heart attack.
Traditionally, pain in the chest cavity — described like an elephant sitting on your chest — has been the No. 1 predictor of attack, along with shortness of breath, fatigue and pain in your left arm. But, unfortunately, symptoms in women can be more subtle.
Heart attack symptoms that are more common in women:
Heart attack symptoms that are more common in men:
In the NIH study, "unusual fatigue" was reported by 70 percent of the women in the sample. This tiredness can creep up days or weeks before the actual attack.
If you aren't sleeping well at night, this could be a forewarning. The NIH found that 48 percent of the women reported sleep disturbance as a symptom prior to their heart attacks.
Instead of an obvious chest pain, we may experience pain in the jaw, neck, or lower or upper back. WebMD notes, "The pain can be gradual or sudden, and it may wax and wane before becoming intense. If you're asleep, it may wake you up."
Heart failure can cause abdominal swelling, which can show up as indigestion, nausea, lack of appetite and vomiting. In the NIH study, 39 percent of women reported these symptoms.
Coughing, sweating and lightheadedness are more than just signs of the flu itself. If you notice any of these flu-like symptoms in conjunction with any other previously mentioned indicators, it may be time to get checked by your doctor.
Anxiety is a way of life for most Americans in today's society. But, if you notice unusual bouts of stress or feelings of "impending doom," take a minute to breathe. Your anxiety may be trying to tell you something.
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