While heart attack symptoms are largely similar among men and women, women may be less aware that their symptoms could potentially signal a problem. The warning signs are common and subtle enough to be confused with the flu, indigestion, menopause or the regular aches and pains that accompany us as we age. 1
However, heart disease occurs just as frequently among women as it does men, so it’s important to be alert to its indicators. The following are common symptoms of a heart attack in men:2
- Chest pain or discomfort in the left or center of the chest
- Pain or discomfort above the waist — for example, in the upper part of the stomach, shoulders, one arm (often the left) or both, neck or jaw
- Shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- Unusual fatigue
- Feeling anxious or just not right
The following are common symptoms of a heart attack in women:3
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes or returning intermittently
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, vomiting or lightheadedness
Again, there are similarities in symptoms and only subtle differences. Among both men and women, the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are somewhat more likely to experience other common symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. 4
If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 and get medical attention immediately.5
1 American Heart Association. March 30, 2018. “Heart Attack Symptoms in Women.” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Symptoms-in-Women_UCM_436448_Article.jsp#.WyxE5C2ZPfY. Accessed June 29, 2018
2 WebMD. Jan. 18, 2018. “Heart Attack Symptoms in Men.” https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-attack-symptoms-in-men. Accessed June 29, 2018.
3American Heart Association. March 30, 2018. “Heart Attack Symptoms in Women.” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Symptoms-in-Women_UCM_436448_Article.jsp#.WyxE5C2ZPfY. Accessed June 29, 2018.
How Much Does a Heart Attack Cost?
While many variables apply, heart attacks cost somewhere between $760,000 and $1 million, including hospitalization, treatment and lost productivity.1
Many patients are able to resume a normal life after surviving a heart attack. By making changes to lifestyle habits, such as quitting smoking, lowering blood pressure, eating a healthier diet and getting regular exercise, it’s possible to reduce the chances of a second heart attack.2 While the threat of another heart attack may not convince you to trade doughnuts for bran muffins or sitting on the couch for a brisk after-dinner walk, perhaps knowing the potential financial burden will. If a first heart attack doesn’t negatively impact your retirement income plan, a second one could.
Most heart attack patients have health insurance; in fact, since many are older they are likely covered by Medicare. However, insurance coverage doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay a portion of the cost. The average heart attack survivor covered by Medicare spends more than $1,000 a month out of his or her own pocket.3
Given this information, it is far less expensive to take steps to prevent a heart attack than to treat one. Additionally, there are valuable savings by no longer smoking or eating processed foods. Brisk walks in the fresh air, picking up produce at a local farmer’s market, and spending time with loved ones preparing nutritious meals in lieu of less healthy habits could be the ticket to a longer and healthier lifestyle — not to mention less expensive.4
1 United Policyholders. “The costs of surviving cardiovascular disease: It’s enough to give you a heart attack!” https://www.uphelp.org/costs-surviving-cardiovascular-disease-it%E2%80%99s-enough-give-you-heart-attack. Accessed June 29, 2018.
3 Medicare. “Estimated Out-of-Pocket Costs.” https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/staticpages/medigap-out-of-pocket-costs.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1. Accessed June 29, 2018.
What is a ‘Widow Maker’?
The somber-named “widow maker” (also a “widower maker”) is a heart attack specifically caused by 100 percent blockage at the beginning of the left main artery or the left anterior descending artery (LAD). It happens quickly and is often fatal. Symptoms include:1
- Chest discomfort — pain, pressure, squeezing or fullness in the center of your chest that may come and go
- Upper body discomfort — in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Pain in the back of the jaw
- Feeling like you can’t catch your breath
- Nausea and/or lightheadedness
- Cold sweat
A key to surviving this type of heart attack is immediate treatment. Call 911; don’t attempt to drive yourself, or have someone else drive you, to the emergency room. Paramedics can offer immediate attention. 2
1 WebMD. “What Is a Widow Maker Heart Attack?” https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/widow-maker-heart-attack#1. Accessed June 29, 2018.
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
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