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Women and heart attacks

5 lies you may believe about women and heart attacks

Let’s get the facts straight: heart disease kills one in three American women and two-thirds of women who die from a heart attack never experienced chest pain. Learn the truth about these common women’s heart attack myths.

Myth 1: I’m not at risk.

A staggering 90 percent of women in the United States have at least one risk factor for heart disease.

“I think the biggest misconception women have about having a heart attack is that they’re not at risk for one,” says Jyoti Sharma, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart. “We tend to think of heart disease or heart attacks especially as a ‘man’s disease’ and that’s just not the case.”

Myth 2: I’ll have crushing chest pain if I’m having a heart attack.

The problem with women’s heart attack symptoms is that they are often non-specific and can be mistaken for other conditions.

“What we hear about in the media or read about online is that you’ve got to have crushing chest pain, but in women that is really not the case,” explains Dr. Sharma.

In fact, two-thirds of the women who die from a heart attack have no history of chest discomfort or pain, so women must learn the other more subtle symptoms that signal a serious problem:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal pain

Myth 3: People will think I’m being dramatic if I seek help.

“If you feel anything like this, you need to take these symptoms very seriously, and not be shy, nervous or afraid that, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to the emergency room or someone will think I’m crazy or making this up,’” explains Dr. Sharma.

Take these symptoms seriously, call your doctor and go to the emergency room. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Myth 4: I can wait and see if my symptoms improve.

Time is muscle.

“If you are having a heart attack, time is of the utmost importance,” she warns. “Every minute that goes by, you have heart muscle that is dying.”

Once heart muscle tissue dies, the damage is permanent. The faster you can get treated, the more likely you are to survive your heart attack and have better function afterward.

Myth 5: I can drive myself to the ER – my symptoms aren’t that bad.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1.

“You’re going to have trained medical personnel that are going to arrive on the scene right away,” explains Dr. Sharma.

Not only can EMS provide medical treatment en route to the hospital, but they can also perform an echocardiogram (EKG) inside the ambulance. Your EKG results will be immediately transmitted to the hospital where a team will be ready and waiting for you to arrive.

Remember: Don’t delay seeking treatment if you have heart attack symptoms.

It’s this simple: You can still have a heart attack even if you’re a woman, young and/or a non-smoker.

“When we delay seeking medical treatment, we’re putting ourselves at risk for having very severe disease that may require more serious interventions,” warns Dr. Sharma. “Or, no treatment may be available by the time we present [at the hospital].”

The faster you seek medical attention, the more likely you are to survive and have a strong recovery.

Find out your heart disease risk factors. Click here to learn more about Piedmont’s women’s heart screening package. 

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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