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Heart attack warning signs women miss

You may see a woman having a heart attack and not even realize it. For many women, symptoms are so subtle they don’t seek treatment until it is too late.

A woman’s subtle heart attack symptoms

Peggy Burleson woke up on a Thursday night with dull chest pain. She got up, took two aspirin and went back to sleep within an hour. The next morning, her symptoms were gone – but they would return that night.

“Friday night, I was so tired,” she remembers. “At about one o’clock, I woke up and I had chest pain again. It was dull, but this time, it went into my shoulder and was radiating a little bit down my arm.”

Because the pain was so dull, Burleson still did not realize she was having a heart attack. Again, she took two aspirin and went back to bed. The next morning, her symptoms were gone.

Seeking treatment

“I talked to my sister and told her what had happened,” says Burleson. “She said, ‘I think you ought to call the heart center at Piedmont.’”

Burleson called Piedmont Heart and was told that with her history of cancer and chemotherapy treatments, she should come to the hospital right away for an evaluation.

“I took a shower and then went to the ER,” she says. “They took me immediately, did an EKG and drew some blood.”

Within 30 minutes, Burleson got her results: her blood work indicated she had suffered a heart attack.

The shocking news

“The reason I didn’t think I was having a heart attack was because when I was younger, I can remember having chest pains that really hurt and that may have been indigestion, for all I know,” she explains. “But this was just a dull pain and I didn’t believe [it was a heart attack].”

Burleson was admitted to Piedmont, where she received a stent on Monday. She went home the next day.

Her message to other women

Burleson urges other women not to ignore their symptoms, regardless of how subtle they may be.

“Sometimes things happen to you and you can’t put your finger on it, but at least go get checked out and then you’ll know you’ll be safe,” she says. “If my sister hadn’t insisted on me going, I might not be here.”

If you have any of the key heart attack warning signs, don’t delay in seeking treatment. Dial 9-1-1 immediately. Heart attack warning signs include:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the body, such as in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

Click here to learn more about women’s heart disease and Piedmont’s women’s heart screening program.