Heart Disease Symptoms Differ in Men and Women

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Southwest Public Health District Release

Even though American women and men are victims of the same leading cause of death - cardiovascular disease - they do not necessarily have the same symptoms. As a result, women are less likely to recognize their condition and may fail to get prompt medical attention, warns Southwest Health District Health Director Dr.
Jacqueline Grant.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States,” she said. “Additionally, the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the U.S., including African Americans, Hispanics and Caucasians.”
Heart disease is especially prevalent in the Southern United States. “CDC data shows that heart disease is highest in the South, Georgia has a higher than average death rate related to heart disease, and our District follows that trend,” Grant noted.
To prevent death from heart disease, it is important to know the signs and symptoms - yet many people do not know them, she said. In addition, many people are not aware that women may experience different symptoms than men when having heart attacks.
“The most common heart attack symptom for both women and men is chest pain or discomfort, but women are more likely to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting and back or jaw pain,” said Grant.
However, almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. “In other words, ladies, even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk of heart disease,”
she said.
Other symptoms of heart disease include breaking out in a cold sweat, shortness of breath, pain in one or both arms, pain or discomfort in the stomach and light-headedness.
Grant said it is a misconception to think heart disease and stroke only strike older adults.
“Anyone can have a stroke, no matter your age, race or gender,”
Grant said. “Cardiovascular death rates increase with age, but it is a mistake to view it as a disease that only strikes the elderly. In Georgia, one out of every four people it kills is less than 65 years old.”

Symptoms that signal the need to call 9-1-1 for emergency medical attention include:
Heart attack
● Chest discomfort (may come and go and may feel like squeezing,
fullness, pressure or pain)
● Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including arms,
back, neck jaw or stomach
● Shortness of breath
● Nausea, lightheadedness, experiencing a cold sweat
● Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or
● Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially
on one side of the body
● Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
● Sudden trouble seeing (in one or both eyes)
● Sudden, severe headache

“If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately so that you can receive the medical attention you need en route,” Grant said. “Heart attacks and strokes are medical emergencies. Every minute counts.”
For more information, contact your local county health department or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.

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