The way you normally think about how heart attacks happen may not be accurate. Knowing what really happens can be powerful.
Don't ignore heart attack warning signs.
- Chest pressure, tightness and heaviness: Most heart attacks involve pain or discomfort in the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
- Extreme fatigue: A sense of unusual or extreme tiredness that lasts for days, or weeks, can be a sign of heart trouble. This symptom is more common in women.
- Fainting and light-headedness: This sensation can involve dizziness, extreme weakness or anxiety.
- Nausea: A feeling of sickness associated with your stomach can be heart-related.
- Pain in shoulders, neck, jaw or arms: Report any unusual upper-body symptoms to your doctor.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest pain: Heart attack sufferers can have trouble breathing for no apparent reason.
- Sweating: This can feel similar to hormonal hot flashes or night sweats.
Is it heartburn, or a heart attack?
The most common sign of a heart attack — for both men and women — is chest pain. But knowing whether the pain is a true warning sign of heart attack or a bout of indigestion may not always be obvious.
If your pain is similar to heartburn, but it seems worse or different than what you normally experience, you should get emergency help. This is especially important if you're experiencing other symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea or pain that moves into your shoulder and arm.
It’s best to pay attention when something does not feel right. It’s better to visit an ER and find out it’s simply heartburn than to ignore the symptoms and find out too late that it’s serious.
Heart attacks in women
Every 20 minutes, a woman in Canada dies from heart disease. Over a lifetime, heart disease kills five times as many women as breast cancer.
While heart disease is the second leading cause of death for both men and women in Canada, there are some key differences between genders. Women tend to experience heart attacks about 10 years later in life than men. Also, women who have had a heart attack, on average, are 30% more likely to die than men who had a heart attack.
However, there are many things you can do to help lower your risk of having a heart attack, including being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, following a healthy diet and knowing your risks.