Recognizing the symptoms of heart disease

Most people enjoy pleasant surprises. Who wouldn’t welcome a bouquet of flowers delivered to their office, a mint on their pillow, or a letter from an old friend?

But, there are surprises that can be devastating.

For example, you may be surprised to learn that cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds. The American Heart Association estimates 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.

Another shocker seems to be the big difference in the symptoms of women’s heart disease compared to men’s. For women, there is more often a lack of detection due to atypical symptoms.

It’s not the pizza

Symptoms of heart issues can sometimes mimic indigestion.

Oftentimes, the symptoms are ignored as “the bad pizza I ate last night.” Tingling in the arm may be attributed to “tennis elbow.”

For women, the “silent killer” heart disease becomes the unrecognized killer.

Likewise, women may be unaware that perspiration is not always a hot flash, insomnia is not just a busy mind, and cramps are not merely “that time of the month.”

These can all be indicators of medical concern for females.

Warning signs

Some warning signs for a heart attack are the same for women and men, although fewer women than men survive their first heart attack. Symptoms include numbness in the arms and back, breaking out in a cold sweat, or lightheadedness.

“It is important to realize that women more frequently than men will have atypical symptoms such as neck or jaw pain, heart racing, nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort, or general fatigue as clues to the presence of heart disease,” said Narayan Saha, a cardiologist at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

Although chest pain can present for both genders, women experience it less often than men do.

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