DANVILLE — A warning to women: While the most common heart attack symptom is pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest, women are more likely than men to also have heart attack symptoms without chest pain.
"Approximately 70 percent of both men and women commonly experience chest pain during a heart attack, but it is important for women to recognize the other symptoms that may signal a problem," said Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Kimberly Skelding, director of Geisinger's Women's Heart and Vascular Health Program and director of Cardiovascular Genomics and Cardiovascular Research at the Henry Hood Center for Health Research.
"According to a recent study on early female heart attack symptoms, researchers found that 43 percent of the 515 women studied had no acute chest pain during their heart attack." According to Skelding, the following symptoms can occur in men and women:
P Squeezing chest pain or pressure
P Shortness of breath
P Tightness in chest
P Pain spreading to shoulders, neck or arm
P Feeling of heartburn or indigestion with or without nausea and vomiting
P Sudden dizziness or brief loss of consciousness
The following symptoms are more likely in women, but also possible for men:
P Unexplained weakness, fatigue
P Discomfort/pain between shoulder blades
P Recurring chest discomfort
"For both sexes, recognizing the symptoms and expediting care are vital to early diagnosis and treatment," said Skelding. "Patients experiencing new symptoms that come on with exertion should immediately seek care."
While symptoms can vary from person to person, the risk factors for developing a heart attack are similar. According to Skelding, these include elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, and a family history of coronary heart disease at a young age.
"No one, male or female, is immune to a heart attack," she said. "Being aware of common symptoms and understanding your risk factors could be the difference between life and death."