In a heart attack, every minute counts. However, it is often misdiagnosed in women or not recognized at all. One reason: the symptoms are different from those of men. In addition, many people consider a heart attack to be a somehow “male” emergency and do not associate it so strongly with women.
But what’s different about a heart attack in women? And how can you detect and prevent it early? We will explain how it becomes noticeable, when you should pay particular attention to your heart and how you should act in case of a heart attack.
What happens if you have a heart attack?
So that the heart muscles can pump blood through your body, they themselves are supplied with blood through the so-called coronary arteries. These ensure that the heart muscle can work and contract rhythmically.
Tightness and pressure in the chest are signs of a possible heart attack. © hananeko Studio / Shutterstock.com
But in the event of a heart attack, some of these vessels become blocked. The consequence: “The heart receives insufficient oxygen and the corresponding heart tissue dies as a result,” explains Prof. Dr. Dr. Christian Jung from the University Hospital in Düsseldorf. Doctors then also speak of a Myocardial infarction . Depending on how much tissue is affected, the infarct can therefore very quickly become life-threatening.
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What causes the blockage of the coronary arteries?
The triggers of a heart attack are usually either calcifications in the vessels or clotted red blood cells. With the so-called Arteriosclerosis over time, lime and fat deposit on the vessel walls. An elevated cholesterol level is suspected to promote these deposits.
Now it can happen that at some point a part of this layer breaks off and gets through the bloodstream to the heart disease vessels. There it gets stuck like a cork and stops the blood supply.
What else can cause a heart attack?
Another trigger is a Thrombus clotted, clotted blood. Actually, the clotting of blood is there to protect us from high blood loss when we have a wound, for example. However, sometimes this happens without injury, when the blood cells close around the calcification of arteriosclerosis, for example.
Sometimes a thrombosis, for example in the leg, can also be carried over, in which case the blood clot travels from its origin to the heart. This is rare, but it happens… the birth control pill can increase this risk .
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Most young female patients who suffer a heart attack are smokers. Therefore: Stop it! © supawadee / Shutterstock.com
Which risk factors favour a heart attack?
Heart attacks are therefore mainly caused by insufficient blood circulation and impaired blood vessels. But what causes these problems? With these risk factors you should pay close attention to the health of your heart, because they all promote deposits in the blood vessels and incorrect blood clotting:
- Menopause and pregnancy
- Unhealthy nutrition and fast food
- diabetes mellitus
- Lack of exercise
- Increased blood fat or cholesterol level
- High blood pressure
- Family burden
- The birth control pill
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What is different about a heart attack in women than in men?
First of all, the good news: women, especially before menopause, have a low risk of heart attack. One reason for this is that women tend to eat healthier food and pay attention to their health.
But on the other hand, it also protects you Oestrogen in your body before a heart attack. It is believed that this hormone keeps the vessels clean and lowers harmful cholesterol in the body.
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The bad news is that risk factors such as smoking or diabetes increase the likelihood of developing them much more in women than in men. In addition, women are often exposed to high levels of stress as mothers, partners and employees.
The second piece of bad news is that if a heart attack does occur, women have much worse chances. They often do not have the classic symptoms such as a stabbing pain in the chest or pain in the left arm; instead, the signs are often much more unspecific. This is why women die of heart attacks more often than men.
What symptoms do women have when having a heart attack?
To increase the chances of survival in the event of a heart attack, the symptoms must be detected as early as possible. However, they can be a little different than in men, more subtle and less obvious. All the more important that you know that you can identify a possible heart attack from these signs:
- severe burning, tightness or pressure in the chest, the heart feels like it is constricted
- agitation involved, even mortal agony
- pain radiating to the shoulder, neck, jaw or upper abdomen
- difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or cold sweat
- Severe nausea and frequent vomiting
- Symptoms persist for at least 5 minutes
Just when you Diabetes If you have diabetes, you have to be especially careful, because diabetes can affect the nerves and thus the sensation of pain. “Since the nerve damage can also affect the heart, many diabetics perceive the heart attack symptoms less or not at all,” explains Jung.
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In a heart attack, every minute counts. If you suspect a heart attack, dial 112 immediately! © ImYanis / Shutterstock.com
What to do if there are signs of a heart attack?
If you feel these symptoms, or someone in your environment, an emergency ambulance should be called as soon as possible, because heart attacks can be fatal within minutes! This is how you help yourself or provide life-saving first aid:
- Keep calm.
- If you are affected yourself: Speak to people specifically that you need an emergency doctor.
- If someone else is affected: secure the area and target people who can help you or call an ambulance.
- Call 112 and answer the following questions: Where are you, what happened, who’s calling? Wait for further questions!
- If the person is not responsive, take resuscitation measures: Lay the subject on his or her back, hold his or her head elevated, then give 30 compressions and two breaths.
- If the person is responsive, you can straighten their upper body, loosen their upper body clothing and calm them down so that they breathe as slowly and deeply as possible.
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Activity in everyday life and especially endurance sports prevent a heart attack! © Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com
How can I prevent a heart attack?
The best thing you can do for your heart is a balanced and healthy lifestyle with enough exercise, relaxation and good food. Especially if you have one or more risk factors, you should therefore do the following:
- Quit smoking: “Most young patients who suffer a heart attack smoke,” explains Professor Jung. The nicotine makes the vessels rigid, increases blood pressure and promotes arteriosclerosis.
- Drink in moderation: A red wine or a beer now and then is okay. But make sure it’s not too much and not too regular.
- Take it easy: Stress is a life-threatening widespread disease. Create times and places where you can find peace, be yourself and recharge your batteries.
- Do some exercise: Endurance sport is your heart’s best friend because it counteracts almost all risk factors. More intensive training can also be good, but only if your heart is healthy enough for it!
- Eat a healthy diet: You know the game: Less fast food, red meat, salt or saturated fats, but more unsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables and fish. All this prevents high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis and keeps your whole body fit from the inside.
- Take medication if necessary: If you are prone to high blood pressure or if you have any other risk factors, be sure to see a doctor. If in doubt, you can get a new birth control pill, beta-blockers, blood thinners such as the well-known aspirin, or other drugs there. It is important not to treat yourself just like that and to make your doctor aware of the gender-specific differences in heart attacks and their treatment.
If you take your health seriously, you can greatly reduce the risk of a heart attack. The better you take care of your heart, the healthier it is. In any case, remember the (women-specific) symptoms of a heart attack, so that you can save your life or someone else’s in case of an emergency.