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How to Recognize the Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Men and Women

The world’s biggest killer is ischaemic heart disease, responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths. Since 2000, the largest increase in deaths has been for this disease, rising by more than 2 million to 8.9 million deaths in 2019. Stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the 2nd and 3rd leading causes of death, responsible for approximately 11% and 6% of total deaths respectively. - WHO


A heart attack is caused by problems with the circulatory system that prevents blood from flowing to the heart. The majority of heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease. Your age, lifestyle habits like diet and exercise, as well as other medical conditions, can all increase your risk.

A cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical system of the heart fails. Arrhythmias that disrupt the heart's rhythm and electrical system are commonly to blame. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart's rhythm stops.


The symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days, or even weeks before a heart attack. Heart disease is most often the cause of a heart attack.

Signs of heart disease

Heart and blood vessel disease, also known as heart disease, encompasses a wide range of issues, many of which are linked to a process known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through them. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

The first sign of heart disease is often a heart attack or other serious event. But there are a few important signs that can help you recognize problems before they come to a head. Heart disease that involves your blood vessels is often signaled by:

  1. Chest pain (angina)—a sense of discomfort or squeezing in your chest that lasts for 30 minutes to a few hours.

  2. Shortness of breath: difficulty catching your breath following moderate physical exertion, such as walking up a flight of stairs.

  3. Unexplained pain in your upper torso, neck, and jaw, and changes in your extremities, such as pain, swelling, tingling, numbness, coldness, and weakness.

  4. Extreme fatigue

  5. And irregular heartbeat that is faster or slower than usual

  6. Dizziness or fainting heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among adults of both sexes in the United States.

But between men and women, the risks, the symptoms, and even the disease may be different.



MEN

Heart disease is one of the leading health risks facing men today. Many men are at high risk of developing heart disease.

An unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and harmful alcohol use are the most significant behavioral risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Individuals may experience raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and overweight or obesity as a result of behavioral risk factors. These "intermediate risk factors" are assessable in primary care settings and indicate an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other complications.

Heart Attack Signs in Men:

  1. Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.

  2. It used to be thought that only chest pain was a sign of a heart attack, but it’s possible to have discomfort that doesn’t register as painful. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort

  4. Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or feeling lightheaded.

Don’t wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. Although some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call the medical emergency number immediately.


WOMEN

Most of what we know about the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease comes from research done on middle-aged men. However, the disease is different in women. Women with heart disease may have different symptoms than men and tend to have heart attacks later in life. Symptoms of heart disease in women might be attributed to existing conditions like arthritis or diabetes. Such problems as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes may make surgery a riskier proposition for them.

Heart Attack Signs in Women

  1. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or it goes away and comes back.

  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort

  4. Breaking out in a cold sweat, experiencing nausea or vomiting, or feeling lightheaded are other common symptoms in women, as are palpitations, sleep disturbances, and unexplained fatigue.

Don’t wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. Although some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call the medical emergency number immediately.

Heart disease is preventable.

  1. Make an appointment with your doctor to find out how likely it is that you will get heart disease.

  2. Know your numbers—your blood pressure, cholesterol, and body fat index.

  3. Quit smoking. Did you know that just one year after you quit, you’ll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent?

  4. Start an exercise program. Exercise is an important part of taking control of your health. Walking for 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

  5. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; eat lean protein-rich foods, such as fish or skinless chicken; avoid saturated and trans fats, found in red meat, butter, and processed foods; and reduce your salt and sugar intake.

  6. "Learn to cope with stress."



References

  1. Cardiac arrest - symptoms. (2022). nhlbi.nih.gov/health/cardiac-arrest/symptoms

  2. Heart attack - causes and risk factors. (2022). nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-attack/causes

  3. Heart attack - what is a heart attack? (2022). nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-attack

  4. Heart Attack: Men Vs. Women - the Heart Foundation. (2017, March 29). The Heart Foundation. Retrieved February 23, 2023, from https://theheartfoundation.org/2017/03/29/heart-attack-men-vs-women/

  5. Cardiovascular diseases (who.int)

  6. UN Task Force on NCDs: Government of Thailand working with UN System to strengthen national NCD response (who.int)





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