I had a request to write on this topic, and I’m finally getting around to it. I’ve never been through this, so I’m not an expert. I have to take what I learned from the internet and from what someone told me her experience was like.
From what I learned, it is hard to tell if a woman is having a heart attack. It seems that the signs are easier to recognize when it happens to men, although my husband’s co-worker went home a month ago complaining about a pain in his arm and died that night from a heart attack. He didn’t think he was having a heart attack, and no one else did, either.
In a nutshell, here is what to watch for:
- Unexpected Fatigue that leaves you with no energy at all. They say you have trouble even walking to the bathroom.
- Shortness of breath while at rest.
- Sweating while at rest.
- Waking up in the middle of the night and feeling as if you can’t catch your breath.
- Upset stomach; sometimes vomiting.
- It feels as if an elephant is sitting on your chest.
- Heartburn that doesn’t go away with something like Tums or sitting up.
- Pain in neck, upper arms, and/or jaw.
- Heartbeat gets unexpectedly fast.
- Chest pain.
From what I gathered, this stuff can go on for weeks or months before the actual heart attack hits full force, and women don’t experience all of these symptoms. So it’s no wonder that this is a very hard thing to figure out. I honestly don’t know how a woman is supposed to know if they’re having a heart attack. The woman I know who had one said that she had heartburn that went on and on even though she took Tums. She said she couldn’t sleep since it was so bad.
My concern is that if you’re having one or two of the symptoms listed above, will it be obvious to a doctor if you go in and mention having those symptoms? My mother-in-law had an eruption in her intestine and the doctors kept saying it was a stomach bug. She almost died because they couldn’t figure out that was going on. Now, I can’t really blame doctors for not figuring that out. She had stomach bug symptoms. Doctors do their best to provide quality care and try to get things right. But we are all human.
So given the list for all of the symptoms that can signal a heart attack in women, I don’t know how a woman is supposed to figure out what is really going on when any of these symptoms can pop up so often over the course of our lifetime.
I guess the extreme fatigue and shortness of breath or sudden burst of sweating would signal something to me that I need to sit up and pay attention, but I’ve had all of the other things happen at one time or another in the course of my lifetime. Also, I’ve been battling a sensitive stomach since I was in my early 20s.
From all of this, I’m thinking a heart attack is probably one of the most difficult things to pin down. Maybe the main thing is that the symptoms linger for longer than normal. Maybe it’s that things are getting worse instead of better. Or maybe we have to rely on the gut instinct that tells us something is seriously wrong.
What about you? Have you come across anyone who’s had a heart attack? What were the symptoms?
Here are the resources I’m pulled together for this post: