February is American Heart Month, a perfect opportunity to continue educating yourself on the importance of heart health and warnings signs of a heart attack. Based on how heart attacks are portrayed in the media, coupled with many people’s understanding of what a heart attack should feel like, it’s not uncommon for people to not realize it’s happening. Heart attacks, especially in women, can occur with different symptoms. While chest pain certainly is a common symptom of a heart attack and should not be ignored, it’s important to understand that your symptoms might be more subtle.
What Causes Heart Attacks?
A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked. This blockage is caused by plaque in the coronary arteries. There are many risk factors for heart disease or heart attacks, some of which are in your control and others which are not. The risk factors that are out of our hands include age (women’s chances increase at age 55), a family history of heart disease, a history of preeclampsia, certain autoimmune disorders, or diabetes. Other risk factors that you can be in control of include tobacco usage, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, obesity, or stress.
How Do I Know I’m Having A Heart Attack?
Some heart attacks come on suddenly, with chest pain. However, lesser recognized symptoms might include pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, shortness of breath, nausea and lightheadedness, and even vomiting or breaking out into a cold sweat. These more subtle symptoms can be confusing for patients who are experiencing them since they mirror symptoms of many other, less life-threatening illnesses or diseases. According to the American Heart Association, many women confuse heart attack symptoms with the flu, cold or common heartburn.
What Should I Do If I’m Having A Heart Attack?
If you think you’re having a heart attack, stop what you’re doing and either call 911 or have a friend or family member call for you. Most 911 operators will advise you to take an aspirin, so if you fall into any above mentioned high risk categories, make sure to keep aspirin easily available. Once at an emergency care facility, doctors will evaluate your overall condition and advise treatment based on your individual health. Some effects of heart attacks can be mitigated through medications, while others may require a surgery or other procedures.
Ways To Reduce Your Risks
At The Woman’s Clinic, we recommend yearly exams so that we can help you keep track of your overall health. By staying on top of every aspect of your health, weight, physical activity, and other factors, you can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Some things are simple, like stopping a smoking habit, drinking less alcohol, or making sure you maintain a healthy level of physical fitness and diet. If you need help with weight loss, The Woman’s Clinic can help! Monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels is also a vital step in preventing heart disease. February is American Heart Month, and we encourage you to celebrate with The Woman’s Clinic. Make sure you evaluate your medical needs, make those appointments you’ve been putting off, and vow to take your heart health into your own hands. Understanding the risks for a heart attack, where you fall into any of those categories, and what to do if you’re having a heart attack might one day save your life. Make an appointment today at The Woman’s Clinic so we can help you get on the right path to a happy heart.