Heart problems are common for both men and women but it is a fact that more women die out of heart disease each year than men. It is essential for every woman to know and identify the symptoms to prevent life threatening complications. Women can also reduce the risk of getting an attack if they know the warning signals. Not all the people who develop heart attack would get excruciating pain in their chest. There are incidences of many women having a heart attack without chest pain.
Signs and Symptoms :
The intensity of chest pain may vary from one person to another. It can range from mild pain to excruciating stabbing pain on the chest depending on the cause. Women are likely to have other symptoms during an attack without chest pain. There can be pain in the neck, shoulder and right arm. It can cause discomfort and uneasy feeling in the abdomen. She may feel dizzy and lightheaded and this may be accompanied with nausea and vomiting. It can cause profuse sweating and shortness of breath.
Most of the women with an attack reported to have tightness in their chest with extra pressure. They tend to have blockages in many small arteries other than the major artery. Also the above symptoms can occur even while she is resting or asleep. Heart attack may develop due to emotional stress also. Women have a tendency to downplay their symptoms and often they ignore the warning signals attributing it to other causes. It is not wise to enter the emergency room after your heart has been totally damaged.
Causes of Chest Pain :
Not all the chest pain is due to heart attack. Only 15-20% of the cases admitted in emergency room with chest pain are diagnosed with heart attack. There are many factors that can induce sudden chest pain. Heart related chest pain can occur due to angina (block in the major blood vessel), heart attack, inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart, swelling of heart muscles and heart muscle disorders.
Some of the gastric problems like acid reflux or heartburn and formation of gallstones in the gallbladder may also cause sudden chest pain in women. Heartburn is caused when the ingested food particles produce excess of acid that cannot be handled by the stomach juices. This in turn forces the acid back into the throat resulting in heartburn. Some of the lung problems like bronchitis and pneumonia can also be a cause of chest pain. For some women, broken ribs, compression fracture and sore muscles can also cause intense pain on their chest.
Risk Factors :
Chest pain can develop to anyone irrespective of age and sex. But people who are obese and having high blood pressure are at high risk of developing chest pain and attack. Prolonged diabetes can also cause sudden chest pain and attack.
Based on the symptoms of chest pain, your doctor would be able to take decision about the cause. Severe chest pain with signs like profuse sweating, shortness of breath and lowering pulse rate can be due to heart attack. In that case emergency treatment is to be given. Your doctor will order for electrocardiogram to monitor the condition of the heart. He may order for echocardiogram test to record the images of your heart, blood culture to check the levels of enzyme and CT/MRI scan of the heart to get accurate picture and to check for blockages in blood vessel.
Tips For Reducing The Risk Of Heart Attack :
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking and drinking.
- Eat foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat.
- Check your health yearly if you are diabetic or obese or above 45 years.
Depending on the severity of chest pain and its cause, invasive procedures are started. Your doctor would put you on intravenous fluids and give medications to relax the artery and also inject clot busting agents or blood thinners. Catheterization is done for clearing the blocks and angioplasty or stenting procedure is done for heart attack. Surgery is done after checking the health condition of the patient for repairing the arteries.
For acid reflux or heartburn induced chest pain, antacids are given in suitable strengths. It is normal for anybody to panic if sudden chest pain develops. Hence your doctor would give you anti-anxiety drugs rapidly to calm down. Aspirin is an effective drug to prevent heart attack, but not all the people are suitable subjects to take aspirin. Women with diabetes or obesity can take 80-300 mg of aspirin daily after consulting doctor.
Most of the women coming with chest pain can be treated easily. Do not delay in getting into the hospital and never ignore the warning signals. Immediate medical care can resolve problems like heart attack or stroke. However if the condition is serious and there is delay in getting medical treatment the patient may collapse.