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Study reveals young women ignore heart attack symptoms

And while older women may be savvier to the symptoms of heart attack and seek treatment when these crop up, this does not hold true for younger women. A new study out of Yale University published in the medical journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes showed that younger women often ignored the symptoms of heart attack despite having a family history of heart disease.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that young women are more likely than men to die from a heart attack and have longer hospital stays. Factors identified in these studies that contributed to increased morbidity from a heart attack in women under the age of 55 include:

• Wide variation in symptoms
• Inaccurate risk self-assessment
• Work and family responsibilities
• Incomplete or delayed diagnosis
• Lack of preventative care
• Not wanting to raise undue alarm

Judith Lichtman, lead author of the Yale study from the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, said, “Young women with multiple risk factors and a strong family history of cardiac disease should not assume they are too young to have a heart attack.” Most women (and people in general) assume the major symptoms of Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) are pain in the left arm and tightness in the chest. In fact, the signs of a cardiac event may surprise you. Here are nine symptoms of AMI that women should never ignore:

#1 Shortness of breath – If you find yourself out of breath even though you’re not exerting yourself, this may be a heart attack symptom, particularly if the condition lingers.

#2 Pain and tightness in head or torso – Tightness, pressure or tingling in your shoulders, back, arms, jaw or ear that doesn’t go away can indicate a serious cardiac issue.

#3 Feeling faint – Dizziness is not normal and can be a sign that your heart is running short on blood. If this symptom accompanies any of the others, it should be even more concerning.

#4 Stomach pain – This can be confused with the chest pain of a heart attack, but heartburn crops up after meals and won’t last. If the pain spreads or worsens, it could spell trouble.

#5 Nausea and stomach upset – Feeling queasy, throwing up, stomach cramps or diarrhea may feel like the flu, but if they come along with other symptoms on this list, can indicate AMI.

#6 Fatigue – Extreme fatigue is a symptom of a potential blockage that’s keeping your heart from getting the blood it needs. It may manifest as pervasive and all-consuming tiredness.

#7 Cold sweats – This can feel like the overheating and cold sweats you get when you’re anxious or nauseous but, combined with other symptoms, may be a cardiac red flag.

#8 Chest pressure – This is more of a classic heart attack symptom and can range from a mild ache or pressure, burning sensation or the feeling that something heavy is on your chest.

#9 Anxiety – The symptoms of a panic attack are similar, in some case, to a heart attack except cardiac warning signs usually don’t go away while anxiety attacks will lessen in short order.

Women, especially those with significant family and work obligations, are likely to back burner their own health concerns. And although some of these symptoms may be subtle, that doesn’t mean that they’re not doing significant damage to your ticker. The longer between onset of symptoms of a cardiac event and treatment, the more likely you are to suffer serious, long-term and possibly fatal consequences. Talk to your primary care doctor if you have a family history of heart disease and consider proactive assessment for cardiac risk factors. And, most importantly, don’t ignore any symptoms of AMI, no matter how busy you are.

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