Women and Heart Attacks: Don’t Second-Guess

By Martin Brown

heartwellA new survey from Great Britain shows that women are more reluctant to seek help when they may be having a heart attack

In fact, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) poll of 2,236 adults found that one in three women mistakenly thought a heart attack must be accompanied by very severe chest pains in order to be real.

Sadly, a third also admitted they would avoid calling the emergency services (in Great Britain, the telephone number 999; in the United States, by phone 911) if they had unusual chest pains. In fact, they wait f an average of 24 minutes longer than men when first experiencing heart attack symptoms – and thus dramatically cutting their changes of survival.

Why the delay? (Take note, and hopefully you’ll never make the same presumption:)

They said fear of being embarrassed if their condition turned out to be trivial would put them off phoning.

Ironically, medical officials stress the importance of seeking help without delay at the first sign of a possible heart attack.

According to the BHF, approximately 140 men and 110 women die every day in the UK from heart attacks, which occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart muscle. Of these, approximately 30 percent die before reaching hospital – often because they delayed seeking medical help.

Telltale Signs

The most common symptom of a heart attack is a pain, or dull ache — often described as a “heavy feeling” — in the center of your chest. This is most often accompanied by a feeling of nausea, or feeling short of breath. Pain may sometimes spread to the arms, neck and jaw.

Other symptoms:

• Chest pain that spreads to the back or stomach;
• Chest pain that feels like a bad episode of indigestion; or
• Chest pain accompanied by feeling light-headed or dizzy.

If paramedics are call, they can take action to stabilize the situation. This buys time for doctors to restore blood supply to the heart. But here’s the reality: the longer the heart muscle is starved of oxygen, the greater the permanent damage to the heart muscle.

Bottom line: People who are treated within two hours of the onset of symptoms are twice as likely to survive as those who are not treated within four hours.

Dr. Mike Knapton, BHF Associate Medical Director, puts it this way: “Every second counts when you are having a heart attack and calling 999 at the very first sign means you are much more likely to survive. There is no need to feel embarrassed about getting it wrong – saving your life is more important than saving face.”

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