“Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars” was an excellent title for a book written a number of years ago.  It described differences between men and women in a humorous way. 

     Men and women are different.  They think differently, interpret things differently, approach problems differently.  These differences carry over to the way their bodies respond to injury and illness, including cardiovascular issues.  We are all familiar with the “typical” heart attack symptoms of crushing chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, etc.  Unfortunately, that is not what many women experience.   The symptoms that women experience can be vague and confusing.  Women also have a strong tendency to minimize their symptoms, resulting in medical personnel not being alerted to the potential significance of the  symptom. 

     Angina in women may present as a hot or burning sensation anywhere in the upper torso.  They may also report pain or tenderness to the touch in the back, shoulders, arms and jaw.  Many have no chest discomfort at all.

     A heart attack may present with nausea, vomiting, indigestion, extreme and sudden unexplained fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety, dizziness, but no chest pain. These symptoms can also be intermittent and may present as early as four weeks before a heart attack.

     Women's symptoms are not as predictable as men’s making them less useful.  A study being conducted by the NIH (National Institute of Health) is trying to look more closely  at these symptoms to try and predict when  these vague symptoms can be used to help predict a cardiac event     It is important not to miss the earliest possible opportunity to prevent or ease a heart attack.  Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should consult their physician to discuss what their risk might be.

     Cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for 43% of all female deaths, yet few women regard CVD as a significant health risk. 

     Talk with your physician, discuss your possible risk.  Know your family history. Those with a family history of early heart attack or stroke are going to be at a higher risk themselves. Be informed, be prepared and take control.  It’s what women have always done best.




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