When a heart attack happens, the protagonist does not fall down to the ground like a domino, clutching on to their chest for dear life.
For women, heart attacks play out like a slow-burning all-consuming fire. In fact, most women don’t even know that they’re having a heart attack when it happens!
80% of women who’ve had heart attacks reported at least 1 of several symptoms at least 4-weeks prior experiencing their heart attack, according to a 2003 study of 515 women.
Common heart attack symptoms for women include:
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual fatigue
This is what a heart attack feels like for a woman:
You’ve been feeling it for the past couple of days. It comes and it goes, in waves of varying strength each time. The smothering pressure in your chest that sometimes even transforms into a dull squeezing or sharp pain.
Today, the pain is back with a vengeance, you feel it creep up your neck, slowly inching towards your jaw.
Recalling your many attempts at getting out of bed this morning, you wonder if the odd feeling in your chest has anything to do with your recent lack of energy and the creeping weakness in your arms. Naw, you reassure yourself. It’s just the lack of sleep you’ve been getting lately.
With great effort, you head outside to work the lethargy off with some fresh air and a good sweat session. But even the short walk outside your apartment leaves you gasping for air. Each breath never seems to adequately fill your lungs and for a moment, you forget what it feels like to breathe normally.
Mind over matter – you tell yourself, so you defy the will of your legs and attempt to run anyway.
Like the villain in a bad pantomime, the dreaded pressure in your chest makes its encore appearance mid-stride. With each step you take, the pressure seems to grow and you soon feel like a rat stuck in the iron-clad grasp of a boa constrictor so you take the sensible road and stop.
But your eyes haven’t seemed to have gotten the message, it feels almost as though you’re in a moving car watching the world go by. So you hold onto a nearby light pole for stability, but your arms, like your legs, have lost all their strength and you can barely keep yourself upright.
It’s just then that you notice the sheen of sweat coating your skin and feel the cold setting into your limbs.”I should probably see a doctor”, you muse to yourself right as the fuzzy black balls in your vision take over and the world shuts down.
Heart disease in women.
Despite heart disease often being described as a man’s disease, the mortality rates are actually higher for women!Women have been found to be less likely to report chest pains and dismiss symptoms. This explains why 42% of women who have heart attacks die within 1 year as compared to 24% of men. In fact, heart disease claims more lives than higher-profile diseases like breast cancer! In 2009, 1 in 30 female deaths was from breast cancer, but 1 in 3 was from cardiovascular disease.