Women Should Be Aware Of Heart-Attack Symptoms

CHICAGO (CBS) — If you’re a woman, you may not believe you’re as vulnerable to a heart attack as a man — but you are.

The symptoms are different, depending on gender.  And, as CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports, when a younger woman has a heart attack, it can be more deadly than when it happens to a man.

Photographer Christine Lee never pictured herself in the health situation she’s in.

“It felt like somebody’s hand was on fire and they reached in and grabbed my heart, and every time it beat in, it got tighter.  It felt like it couldn’t get a full beat back out,” she says.

Christine had suffered a heart attack, and she’s only 43. She says she had experienced flu-like symptoms, including lethargy, sweats and trouble sleeping, for a few weeks.

That’s not unusual.  Doctors say many women don’t see it coming because they have different symptoms than men, and even emergency room physicians can be slow to reach a diagnosis.

“Women are more likely to come in with non-specific symptoms — shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, dizziness,” says Dr. Rupa Mehta Sanghani, a cardiologist at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Sanghani is studying heart attacks in young women to help predict who is at risk.

“Women that present with the heart attack at a younger age are much more likely to die of their heart attack than a male of the same age,” she says.

Researchers say young women are having heart attacks more often.  Women have a one-in-three chance of getting heart disease, compared to a one-in-eight chance of getting breast cancer.

“I think women need to realize that they’re definitely at risk for this, and it’s a bigger killer than breast cancer is,” Dr. Sanghani says.

Having that heart attack last November has made Lee want to warn other women.

“If something seems odd, get on the phone, make an appointment, be insistent,” she says.

Smoking and obesity are important risk factors for women. In Christine Lee’s case, it was family history.  All women should learn the heart attack signs:

–pain or discomfort in the center of the chest, or other areas of the body (arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach)

–shortness of breath

–breaking out into a cold sweat



  • Penny

    I think the medical community needs to look at women even younger then 40. I was 28 when I had my heart attack. I had just gotten a physical for my europe trip, because I was over there for 6 weeks. I was told everything was good. Eight weeks later I woke up at midnight to burning in my chest and a sharp pain ran down my left arm. I had been suffering from heart burn for the last year and brushed it off as that. I was on fire I got up to find somthing to sooth the burning, I ate a bannan, ice cream I even went to my local walgreens pharmacy and I was told to take some prevacid. I finaly was at the point where my whole body was aching and I was bent over with pain. I called acute center was on the phone with them for 30 sec and was told to go to the emergeny room. By this time it was 12 hours after the heart attack. I thought I had a bad case of indgestion. It turns out I had 2 blocked arteries, 1 was 100% blocked and the other was 80%. I am doing well now because I am on medication for the rest of my life. I was told my heart disease was from family history, the only thing I was aware of in my family was cancer and diabetes, which I now have as well. Every time I go for my check up I am reminded that I am just to young to have had a heart attack. I hope young people read this and think I am also at risk not just older people.

  • Audra

    I think that is important for women to know the signs of heart disease and what causes it. I know that I did not know some of these symptoms and now it makes me wonder whether or not I am one of those women who are blind to these types of symptoms.

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  • Jan

    My sister was in good health with no known risk factors. At the age of 51 she had a fatal heart attack caused by a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) event. SCAD events have occured in women in their early 20’s. Sometimes a SCAD event occurs shortly after childbirth. Sometimes during menopause. Men can also have a SCAD event. SCAD is a poorly understood cause of heart attacks. For additional information on SCAD, go to SCADResearch.org.

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  • navnit doshi

    rupa mehta sanghani, congretulations and good luck in your futers works we all doshi and co, very proud of you, navnit doshi and kavita,

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