Heart disease takes more lives in the U.S. than anything else—in fact, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. That’s why understanding the symptoms of a heart attack, what your risk factors are and how to prevent one from happening are vital components of leading a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Heart attack symptoms vary between men and women. Symptoms may not look as dramatic in women as they do in men, but they are just as threatening. A man experiencing a heart attack may suddenly grab his chest, double over in pain, and collapse, whereas women have symptoms that are more subtle.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Men
Men typically experience the stereotypical, intense symptoms of heart attacks. Common symptoms of a heart attack may look like:
- Pain or discomfort in the chest
- Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulders
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness, lightheadedness or faintness
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
Women do not typically experience the stereotypical intense symptoms. Instead, the attack may be mistaken for a bad case of indigestion, or they may feel heaviness or pressure on the chest.
Women may also notice other subtle symptoms, including:
- Arm and shoulder pain
- Discomfort in the jaw
- Shortness of breath
Heart Attack Risk Factors
The chance of having a heart attack can increase due to certain risk factors, such as other medical conditions, genetics and lifestyle choices. Risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Being Overweight
Additionally, while most heart attacks occur after age 65, men are more likely to have a heart attack before age 65. Women should pay close attention to subtle warning signs of a heart attack if they take birth control pills or are postmenopausal and not taking estrogen replacement therapy.
Heart Attack Prevention
Talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors for heart attack and follow preventive measures to keep your heart healthy. Prevention methods include:
- Exercising regularly. Thirty minutes a day is the recommended minimum.
- Eating a heart-healthy diet complete with whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and veggies.
- Stop smoking. If you need help quitting, look to Altru’s tobacco cessation program for guidance.
- Manage your stress. Practice mindfulness or stress-reducing activities such as yoga or meditation. Even five minutes of meditation each day can greatly reduce stress and improve your health. (Learn how Dr. Aboufakher incorporates meditation into his daily life.)
Altru’s Heart & Vascular team is always here to help you keep your heart in check. Learn more about our team and services or to take a heart health risk assessment.