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Women's Heart Health: The difference in symptoms between men and women

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Posted at 5:20 PM, Feb 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 00:15:37-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — The leading cause of death in women in the United States is heart disease. Tucsonan Susan Smith suffered a heart attack at the age of 70; three years ago, this month.

“On that day, it felt like someone was pinching my collarbone. I would get shorter breath I would get a little lightheaded and was really tired,” said Smith.

Those are all symptoms of heart attacks in women that are quite different than a man’s experience. Smith says heart attacks in males are widely known as symptoms such as pain down the arm and crushing chest pain.

“It’s a mystery to me why this isn't given to us girls in school or in our health classes, or whatever. But it's never too late to learn,” said Smith.

The most common heart attack symptoms in women:

  • Pressure or discomfort in the neck, shoulders, upper back, or abdominal areas
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

If you have any of these symptoms, immediately call 911 and head to the ER.

“There’s a statistic that says 46-percent of women will not call 911 if they experience any of the symptoms that we talked about, and the reason is. They are afraid they're going to inconvenience someone number one reason. And the other thing is that they fear embarrassment they fear they're going to get there and have indigestion or anxiety. But you know what. I'd rather go to the emergency room have a hospital bill leave they're alive and just have that misdiagnosis,” said Smith.

If you do suffer a heart attack smith says, from experience, to participate in cardiac rehab and find a way to heal your emotional and spiritual self

“If you can get into a support group right away or some kind of counseling or anything that's going to help you feel better because women have a roller coaster of emotions after this or during,” said Smith.

Last year, smith started a women’s heart health support group, partnered with Tucson Medical Center. While many heart health groups across the country discontinued due to the pandemic, smith’s support group kept on. The meetings are still continuing monthly, but virtually.

If you are interested in the TMC WomenHeart support group for women recovering from or coping with cardiac disease, call 520-324-1960.