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Women Are Twice as Likely to Die from Heart Attacks as Men

    • June 1, 2023
    • Heart Health
    • 3 minute read
  • Naga Pannala, MD

Men and Women experience heart attacks differently, and the different signs and symptoms that affect women could be the reason more women die from heart attacks than men each year.

Many people are familiar with the common signs of a heart attack in men: tightness and discomfort in the chest, pain in the left arm, shortness of breath and heavy sweating. But many women do not know that their signs of a heart attack could be very different from a man's.

Women are more likely than men to experience no chest pain when having a heart attack, and women more frequently experience an upset stomach, upper back pain, shoulder pain and tightness in their neck when having a heart attack.

The American Heart Association says women should watch for the following signs of a heart attack:

• It feels like you just carried a huge box of books home, and have paid or soreness in your chest, shoulders, arms, upper back or neck.

• It feels like you ate something that was left in the fridge for too long, and have stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting or heartburn.

• It feels like you just climbed a mountain, and have shortness of breath, extreme tiredness, weakness, lightheadedness or sweating.

Because women are not as familiar with these signs of a heart attack, research shows they wait 37 minutes longer than men before calling for help.

Groups like the American Heart Association and Hello Heart are on a mission to change this. They say, "If you feel something, say something." This means that women experiencing any combination of these signs and symptoms, especially if they are out of the ordinary, should call their ArchWell Health center or 911 and seek medical care. Rather than assuming they are experiencing indigestion or muscle pain, women should feel empowered to talk to their provider and care team when something feels wrong.

To prevent heart attacks and heart disease, women should also talk to their healthcare provider about heart health risks. Women at greater risk of heart attacks include those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, family history of heart issues and more.

Women and their providers can discuss ways to protect themselves from heart attacks and heart disease. These include:

• Maintain a healthy diet – things like eating less sugar and fried foods and adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can protect both men and women from heart health issues.

• Get regular exercise – walking daily for 30 – 40 minutes each day is a great place to start.

• Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol – an ArchWell Health provider can discuss potential medication and other treatments with members.

• Quit smoking – research shows that men and women who quit smoking cut their risk of a heart attack in half.

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About the Author

Naga Pannala, MD, Cardiologist

Naga Pannala, a Medical Doctor (MD), joined ArchWell Health because she believes in quality time with patients and treating them comprehensively through thoughtful, goal oriented conversations.

When she’s not with patients, she enjoys travel, exercise, and spending time with her husband and two kids.

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