Realize Your Risk: Coronary Artery Disease and Heart Attack

Two female friends use their hands to form the shape of a heart. Every 43 seconds someone has a heart attack in the United States. A heart attack occurs when blood flow is blocked to a part of the heart for a period of time and part of the heart muscle becomes damaged or dies. You may hear your physician refer to it as a myocardial infarction.

More than half a million women have a heart attack each year.  As women age, they are at an increased risk to die from a heart attack. Chest pain might be the most well-known symptom of a heart attack, but there are other symptoms and risk factors that women should be aware of. 

Specific Signs for Women

Studies show that some women never experience chest pain, either leading up to or during a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association these are the most common signs of a heart attack in women:

  • Pressure, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts for more than a few minutes
  • Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest pain
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

Treat, Change, Control

Even though heart disease is one of the number one killers of women in the United States, there are things you can keep an eye on to lessen the risk of life-threatening conditions. There are a variety of risk factors associated with heart disease, some that can be monitored with the help of a primary care physician.

The six major risk factors that you can have an impact on today include:

  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
  • Tobacco Use
  • High Cholesterol
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

What Else Can You Do?

A few other things you can do to help prevent the threat of heart disease and heart attack is to quit smoking, considering starting an exercise routine or make modifications to your diet.

Be Prepared

While heart attack signs may vary between men and women, it is important to be prepared and not only know the signs, but know where the nearest emergency treatment facilities are that have the capabilities and skill to respond quickly to a heart attack. If you observe these signs in yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately.