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Heart Attack in Women
What Can Cause a Heart Attack
How Men and Women Differ
Heart Attack Symptoms
- Discomfort or pain in the center of the chest—many times, it feels like pressure or squeezing that may last a long time, or go away and come back
- Discomfort or pain in the jaw, arms, back, neck, or stomach
- Shortness of breath with or without chest pain
- Cold sweat
- Nausea or vomiting
- A fear of impending doom or death
- Extreme fatigue, which may occur days or weeks in advance
- Pressure or pain in the lower chest , upper abdomen, or upper back
- Lightheadedness, which may lead to fainting
Know Your Risks
- Increasing age
- Race or ethnicity
- Family history of cardiovascular disease
- Previous heart attack
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Younger age at menopause
- Hormonal replacement therapy (HRT)
- Use of birth control pills, especially in heavy smokers
Changes You Can Make to Prevent a Heart Attack
- If you smoke, quit —Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs. There are also nicotine replacement products to help you kick the habit.
- Aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week, about 30 minutes on most days.
- The activity should be moderate intensity, like walking or swimming. You could also do 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, such as running or participating in an exercise class.
- Do strength training twice a week
- Remember to talk to your doctor before staring a new exercise routine
- Eat healthier:
- Maintain a healthy weight —If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about ways you can lose weight and keep it off. Two main strategies for reaching your goal include reducing the number of calories that you consume and exercising. If you have a hard time, talk with a dietitian to help with meal planning.
- Staying active in any rehab program designed for you if you have a heart attack, stroke, or heart surgery. The program will help you recover and may lower your risk of having another event.
- Control any health conditions you have by taking all medications as prescribed, and by following the lifestyle changes listed above.
- Take steps to reduce stress . Yoga and meditation are just two methods that can help you relax.
- Go to any recommended doctor's appointments.
- Talk with your doctor about taking aspirin every day.
American Heart Association http://www.heart.org
National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease http://www.womenheart.org
Heart and Stroke Foundation http://heartandstroke.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
Cardiovascular disease prevention overview. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated June 13, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2013.
Coronary artery disease major risk factors. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated July 1, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2013.
Coronary artery disease possible risk factors. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated August 5, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2013.
Explore how the heart works. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hhw. Updated November 17, 2011. Accessed August 12, 2013.
Heart attack symptoms in women. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Symptoms-in-Women%5FUCM%5F436448%5FArticle.jsp. Updated June 25, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2013.
Heart disease. Women's Heart Foundation website. Available at: http://www.womensheart.org/content/HeartDisease/heart%5Fdisease.asp. Accessed August 12, 2013.
Mosca L, Benjamin E, Berra K, et al. Effectiveness-based guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women—2011 update. Circulation. 2011;123(11):1243-1262.
Non-invasive tests and procedures. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Non-Invasive-Tests-and-Procedures%5FUCM%5F303930%5FArticle.jsp. Updated April 15, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2013.
ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated August 8, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2013.
The healthy heart handbook for women. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/other/hhw/hdbk%5Fwmn.pdf. Updated March 2007. Accessed August 12, 2013.
Warning signs of a heart attack. American Hearth Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Warning-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack%5FUCM%5F002039%5FArticle.jsp. Updated March 22, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2013
- Update Date: 08/12/2013