Saturday, May 19, 2007

Early Warning Signs of Heart Attack in Women

Chest pain is not a frequent early warning symptom of a heart attack in women.

But what is?

In a study funded by the NIH that appeared in the journal Circulation in 2003,1 the most frequent early warning symptom of heart attack in women was unusual fatigue ... not a tiredness that you might link to overwork or stress, but a fatigue so severe some women gave the example of not being able to make a bed without resting.

Most Women Have Early Warning Symptoms

Of the 515 women studied, 95% of them reported experiencing symptoms a month or more before a heart attack.

The most frequent symptoms reported were:
  • unusual fatigue (70.7% of women experienced)
  • sleep disturbances (47.8%)
  • shortness of breath (42.1%)
  • indigestion (39.4%)
  • anxiousness (35.5%)
The minority of women who did report chest discomfort in the weeks leading up to a heart attack "used descriptors such as aching, tightness, or pressure, not pain" to explain it.

Even during a heart attack, 43% of women in this study "did not experience any type of chest discomfort."

The lead author of the study, Jean C. McSweeney, PhD:2
"McSweeney said her best advice is for women who have risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or a family history of heart disease and who are experiencing [early warning] symptoms should contact their doctor before seeking emergency treatment."

1 For the study (full free access):
Women’s Early Warning Symptoms of Acute Myocardial Infarction

2 For a summary, provided by Yale-New Haven Health:
Signs Of Impending Heart Attacks Among Women