Mars and Venus Getting Heart Healthy: Know the Signs of a Heart Attack

February is American Heart Month

John Gray revealed some ground-breaking insights into the vast differences between men and women in his now-famous book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. It was the start of a prolific series that’s so well-known that the original title has become a widely-understood expression in the English language.

Men and women are different in more than just the language of love. The physical characteristics of the heart might be the same, but the signs of a heart attack are quite different between men and women.

Heart Disease Causes 1 in 4 Deaths Each Year

Contrary to former popular belief, women are just as likely as men to have a heart attack. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women, and it takes more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

Mainstream knowledge emphasizes the signs and symptoms in men: the “classic,” chest-clutching depiction we see in the media. But even that’s not accurate. No two heart attacks are alike, even for the same individual – and some are silent, with few or no obvious symptoms.

Signs of a Heart Attack in Men

Heart attacks are also the number one killer of men, identified as the cause of more than half of all deaths among men in 2009.

The most common signs of a heart attack in men include:

  • Chest pain or burning
  • Chest pressure or tightness
  • Chest discomfort

The pain and other sensations may come and go, and men commonly say they’re noticed on exertion. There are other major warning signs of heart attack in men, as well:

  • Pain or discomfort in arms (one or both), back, neck or jaw
  • Stomach pain or heartburn-like feelings in the abdominal area
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, nausea or cold sweats

Signs of a Heart Attack in Women

Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women. However, women are much more likely to experience the less obvious symptoms, according to Go Red for Women, an American Heart Association-affiliated organization that promotes awareness of cardiovascular disease in women.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath, sometimes with chest discomfort
  • Cold sweat, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting or nausea
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • Extreme fatigue

Women may also experience the classic signs of a heart attack, such as:

  • Pressure, tightness or squeezing feeling in the chest
  • Chest pain or pressure in the upper back

The uncomfortable pressure, tightness and pain in the chest may come and go, or it may last for more than a few minutes. According to the American Heart Association, women often brush off the subtle signs as something like the flu and delay calling 9-1-1 as a result.

According to the CDC, nearly half (47 percent) of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside of the hospital setting, suggesting that we’re not recognizing the early warning signs in time to seek life-saving treatment. Learn the signs and symptoms. If you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing a heart attack, don’t wait – call 9-1-1 immediately. Those 30 extra seconds could be the very moments that save your life or the life of your loved one.

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