Happy February where everything is all about hearts!! It is the month of Love and National Heart Health Month. We hear about the Go Red for Women campaign that is hosted by the American Heart Association.
Heart disease is the number one killer for both men and women in the US age 45-64 and it is getting younger each passing year. In Arkansas we have had high school students go into cardiac arrest while playing sports. We have had one high school student not make it due to cardiac arrest.
February is focused on women’s heart health and The American Heart Association shares these “Facts About Heart Disease in Women”:
Do you know what causes heart disease in women? What about the survival rate? Or whether women of all ethnicities share the same risk?The fact is: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute! But it doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t the same in men. What’s more: These facts only begin to scratch the surface.
There are several misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting you at risk. The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement advocates for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health for this very reason. In this section, we’ll arm you with the facts and dispel some myths – because the truth can no longer be ignored.”
It is important to know the signs and symptoms and it is important to recognize them and know how to act. The American Heart Association has presented the following materials which can be found here (https://www.goredforwomen.org/about-heart-disease/facts_about_heart_disease_in_women-sub-category/silent-heart-attack-symptoms-risks/):
A heart attack does not always have obvious symptoms, such as pain in your chest, shortness of breath and cold sweats. In fact, a heart attack can actually happen without a person knowing it. It is called a silent heart attack, or medically referred to as silent ischemia (lack of oxygen) to the heart muscle.
Symptoms of a Silent Heart Attack
“Just like the name implies, a silent heart attack is a heart attack that has either no symptoms or minimal symptoms or unrecognized symptoms,” says Deborah Ekery, M.D., a clinical cardiologist at Heart Hospital of Austin and with Austin Heart in Austin, TX. “But it is like any other heart attack where blood flow to a section of the heart is temporarily blocked and can cause scarring and damage to the heart muscle.”
Ekery regularly sees patients who come in complaining of fatigue and problems related to heart disease, and discovers, through an MRI or EKG, that the person had actually suffered a heart attack weeks or months ago, without ever realizing it.
“People who have these so-called silent heart attacks are more likely to have non-specific and subtle symptoms, such as indigestion or a case of the flu, or they may think that they strained a muscle in their chest or their upper back. It also may not be discomfort in the chest, it may be in the jaw or the upper back or arms,” she says. “Some folks have prolonged and excessive fatigue that is unexplained. Those are some of the less specific symptoms for a heart attack, but ones that people may ignore or attribute to something else.”
Causes of a Silent Heart Attack in Women
A silent heart attack happens when the flow of blood is blocked in the coronary arteries by a build up of plaque. Studies differ, but some suggest that silent heart attacks are more common in women than in men. Ekery points out that women and their physicians may also be more likely to chalk up symptoms of a silent heart attack to anxiety and dismiss them. Still, she says, the risk factors for a silent heart attack are the same as those for a recognized heart attack, and include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and age.
A silent heart attack can be just as dangerous as its more obvious counterpart, says Ekery. Because the event often leaves scarring and damage to the heart, it puts the person at greater risk of other heart problems. And because the person didn’t know to seek treatment, blood flow to the heart might not have been restored early on, and no medications were administered, so the impact could potentially be greater.
What to do During a Silent Heart Attack?
The “silent” in a silent heart attack is the complicating factor—often, women don’t realize they’re experiencing a medical emergency. If you do notice symptoms of a silent heart attack, try to stay calm and call 911 immediately. When you get to the hosptial, make it clear that you think you may be having a heart attack and not an anxiety attack. Advocate for yourself or, if you can, bring along someone who will advocate for you.
How to Prevent a Silent Heart Attack?
Ekery advises her patients to know their risk factors, be aware of their blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise regularly and avoid smoking to decrease their risk of a heart attack. Above all, she cautions them to listen to their bodies, and if something isn’t right, talk to a doctor.
“People know their own bodies, and if something seems unusual, they ought to be evaluated,” she says, “particularly if they have any of those risks.”
If you want to want to know what to do in the event someone is having symptoms, take a class to be prepared. It does not matter the curriculum as long as it is an accredited curriculum such as American Heart, American Red Cross or National Safety Council, just to name a few, but make sure it is national recognized and you get hands on experience.