Heart attack symptoms in women can be atypical. Chest discomfort is most frequent, however other less recognized symptoms include back pain, fatigue, breathlessness and arm or joint pain. Women do not always present with the classic feeling of the “elephant on your chest,” which is more common in men. Misdiagnosing these symptoms as being caused by stress or a hectic schedule can be deadly.
I’ve heard several women say, “I never thought I’d have a heart attack.” No one thinks it’s going to happen to them. Unfortunately, that’s not true. More than 200,000 women in our country die each year from heart attacks.
Women should have an annual physical with a blood pressure check and lipid panel. Symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors should also be reviewed.
Your blood pressure should be less than 140/90, with lower targets for certain conditions such as diagnosed coronary disease.
A lipid panel is the measurement of different components of cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in your bloodstream. There are two types: LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque formation in arterial walls. This plaque can narrow your arteries or rupture, causing a heart attack. HDL is called “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to your liver, where it’s removed from your body.
There are different target levels of LDL cholesterol, depending on risk factors and existing conditions such as diabetes or known coronary artery disease. In low risk patients, LDL should be less than 160 mg/dL. HDL should be greater than 40 mg/dL, and triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL. Exercising and limiting saturated fats in your diet helps to lower your cholesterol.
Don’t ignore symptoms; talk to your doctor. Exercise regularly, don’t smoke, and eat nutritious foods. Be a positive example to others. Heart disease risk factors including diabetes and obesity rates are climbing in our community, in adults and in children. Let’s work on keeping our hearts healthy.
Dr. Brearley will give a free lecture called “When Seconds Count – Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack” on Tuesday February 4. 2014 at Sumter Cardiology at 540 Physicians Lane in Sumter. The lecture is the first in a new patient education series in Sumter. It’s free, open to the public and attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions. We hope you can join us in Sumter on February 4. For information about future patient education series events, visit Sumter Cardiology’s website.