Heart Attacks in Women
- One woman's heart attack story
- What is heart disease?
- Do women need to worry about heart disease?
- Do women of color need to worry about heart disease?
- What can I do to prevent heart disease?
- What does high blood pressure have to do with heart disease?
- How can I lower my blood pressure?
- What does high cholesterol have to do with heart disease?
- What do my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers mean?
- How can I lower my cholesterol?
- How do I know if I have heart disease?
- What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?
- One of my family members had a heart attack. Does that mean I'll have one too?
- Sometimes my heart beats really fast and other times it feels like my heart skips a beat. Am I having a heart attack?
- Should I take a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack?
- Does taking birth control pills increase my risk for heart disease?
- Does using the birth control patch increase my risk for heart disease?
- Does menopausal hormone therapy (HT, HRT, ET) increase a woman's risk for heart disease?
- For more information on heart disease in women
- Find a local Doctor in your town
One woman's heart attack story
In 1991, I went to the ER with chest pains twice in one week. They said it was ulcers (bleeding in the stomach). Then the pain became very intense. Again, the ER said there was nothing they could do. I refused to leave and was admitted for observation. Later, the doctor on duty saw my EKG and asked, "Where's the 34-year-old who had the massive heart attack?" I had emergency surgery. However, the damage was done, and only part of my heart muscle functions. I had to quit a job I loved, and my life is completely changed. They thought I was too young to have a heart attack.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease in women includes a number of problems affecting the heart and the blood vessels in the heart. Types of heart disease include:
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type and is the leading cause of heart attacks. When you have CAD, your arteries become hard and narrow. Blood has a hard time getting to the heart, so the heart does not get all the blood it needs. CAD can lead to:
- Angina (an-JEYE-nuh). Angina is chest pain or discomfort that happens when the heart does not get enough blood. It may feel like a pressing or squeezing pain, often in the chest, but sometimes the pain is in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It can also feel like indigestion (upset stomach). Angina is not a heart attack, but having angina means you are more likely to have a heart attack.
- Heart attack. A heart attack occurs when an artery is severely or completely blocked, and the heart does not get the blood it needs for more than 20 minutes.
Heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to pump blood through the body as well as it should. This means that other organs, which normally get blood from the heart, do not get enough blood. It does not mean that the heart stops. Signs of heart failure include:
- Shortness of breath (feeling like you can't get enough air)
- Swelling in feet, ankles, and legs
- Extreme tiredness
Heart arrhythmias (uh-RITH-mee-uhz) are changes in the beat of the heart. Most people have felt dizzy, faint, out of breath or had chest pains at one time. These changes in heartbeat are harmless for most people. As you get older, you are more likely to have arrhythmias. Don't panic if you have a few flutters or if your heart races once in a while. If you have flutters and other symptoms such as dizziness or shortness of breath, call 911 right away.
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