Despite the fact that there has been a huge campaign to inform women about the different ways that heart attack can present, we (women) are still waiting too long to call for help. I believe that one of the reasons has to do with our nature. Most of us live in the land of denial. We do not think that something like heart attack can happen to us. In addition we are so busy taking care of others that we often ignore our own symptoms.
Research looking at heart disease in women done by the National Institutes of Health found that 95% of women studied noted symptoms that were unusual for them one month prior to having their heart attack. The most common being unusual fatigue; sleep problems, shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety.
Despite all the research and push for public awareness, heart disease is still the number one cause of death in men AND women. Risk factors include: family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, lack of exercise, smoking, stress, and low magnesium.
Regardless of whether you have any of these risk factors or not, if you are a woman and you experience overwhelming fatigue like you do with a bad flu, (but you don’t have the flu), trouble sleeping, anxiety, a sense of dread, shortness of breath, vague chest or jaw discomfort; you may be having a heart attack or you are about to experience one.
If that is the case, do NOT drive yourself to the emergency room. Do NOT wait till a friend or family member can take you to the emergency room. Do NOT ignore the symptoms. Do call 911 and chew an aspirin while you wait (provided you are not allergic to aspirin).
The reason you call 911 is that you want to be cared for as soon as possible. As most cardiologists will tell you, time is muscle. If you take yourself to the emergency room, you may have to wait and that might have tragic consequences. I had a patient many years ago, who had her heart attack while she waited three hours in the waiting room of a hospital emergency room. Do not let that happen to you. The longer you wait the greater the chance you will sustain long-lasting heart damage. The sooner they can help you the better your chances of a full recovery.
Most of us may be self-sacrificing but we have really good gut instincts. Listen to your intuition. If you think that something is wrong with your heart then you are probably right. Take care of your heart so it can take care of you and keep you vital and healthy.