Kim Poli, M.D., cardiologist at Albany Medical Center, said that women are less likely to feel chest pain during a heart attack, and more likely to ignore symptoms.
A heart attack strikes someone every 34 seconds. It occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This often happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood have become thicker and harder from a buildup of fat, cholesterol or plaque. Approximately 267,000 women die from heart attacks each year—six times the amount that die from breast cancer.
“Many women will describe atypical symptoms and not the classic description of severe chest pressure radiating to the left arm,” says Dr. Poli. In addition, she says women overall have a lower level of awareness of their risk of cardiovascular disease, although it is the leading cause of death among women.
Some of the atypical symptoms women describe include (but are not limited to):
• Back, neck and jaw pain
In addition, chest pain is more often atypical occurring at rest or with emotional stress, and may be described as a sharp or burning sensation.
“Due to the lower awareness of the problem, when women experience symptoms they delay seeking medical attention. Women need to recognize the warning signs and seek medical attention immediately. Any delay in treatment can lead to death or increased damage of the heart muscle. Women have a higher in hospital death rate after suffering a heart attack in part due to later presentation and lack of early recognition of angina symptoms.”
Dr. Poli says that if women experience any of the above symptoms along with shortness of breath with or without chest pain, they should seek immediate medical attention.
Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 651-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with 350 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.