Women don’t have the same heart attack symptoms as men, so they need to know what to watch for
When many people envision a heart attack, they think of crippling chest pain. For men, that’s typically the symptom that alerts them to a life-threatening situation. But for women, heart attack symptoms are different. If we don’t know what to look out for, it can be easy to shrug off heart attack symptoms as something minor.
One woman almost did just that. She had a life-threatening heart attack, and almost didn’t seek help because her symptoms didn’t seem like anything major. She didn’t think she needed medical attention. Now, she’s sharing her story in a viral Twitter thread to help other women see that symptoms of a heart attack, though they may seem minor, need to be taken seriously. It’s a Twitter thread that could very well save a life.
I want to warn women our heart attacks feel different. Last Sunday I had a heart attack. I had a 95% block in my left anterior descending artery. I’m alive because I called 911. I never had chest pain. It wasn’t what you read in pamphlets. I had it off & on for weeks.
— gwheezie (@geewheezie) December 9, 2018
The woman, who goes by gwheezie on Twitter, suffered symptoms for weeks before she sought help. By then, she had a 95 percent block in a cardiac artery, and required multiple stents. She wrote that she thought the pain that was caused by her heart attack was just some mild muscle strain from cleaning out a barn.
The pain ran across my upper back, shoulder blades & equally down both arms. It felt like burning & aching. I actually thought it was muscle strain. It wasn’t until I broke into drenching sweat & started vomiting that I called 911.— gwheezie (@geewheezie) December 9, 2018
I’m a nurse. I’m an older woman. I had been spending the week helping my neighbor clean out her barn, I thought I strained some muscles. I took Motrin & put a warm pack on my shoulders, I almost died because I didn’t call it chest pain.— gwheezie (@geewheezie) December 9, 2018
Gwheezie even thought she should seek medical help sooner than she did, but she had things to do so she put it off. You know, like women do with health things all the time.
The day before my heart attack I drove 6 hours to help my mother who lives in another state. I thought I should go to a dr but I had to help my mom who is 90 & I’d just tough it out because it wasn’t real bad.— gwheezie (@geewheezie) December 9, 2018
In her words, “I’d just tough it out because it wasn’t real bad.” Ladies, a show of hands. How many of us have done exactly that when we’ve been sick or injured?
According to the American Heart Association, heart attack symptoms for women include pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in your chest; pain in one or both arms, your back, neck or stomach; shortness of breath; cold sweat; nausea; and lightheadedness. You can have all of those symptoms, or just some of them. A woman can have a heart attack without experiencing any chest pain at all.
Gwheezie is lucky her story ends well. When she finally did call 911, the paramedics knew right away what was up, and took her to a hospital where she could get good cardio care.
I was lucky, I had no idea what hospital to go to, the female medics who picked me up took me to a hospital that does cardiac caths, i had 4 stents placed an hour after I got to the er. That was Sunday. I was discharged thurs & at my daughters house & back to tweeting.— gwheezie (@geewheezie) December 9, 2018
Judging by the reactions to the thread, she’s not the only one who was surprised to learn that women’s heart attacks are so different from men’s. There are also a lot of women with similar stories of finding out from a major health scare.
So glad you're ok. Take care of yourself and bless you for tweeting this...I knew heart attacks were supposed to manifest differently in women, but not *how*. Thank you for doing this when you should be resting *peers at you sternly over varifocals*.— 𝕽𝖆𝖛𝖊𝖓 𝖂𝖔𝖑𝖋 🐺 (@ravenwolf68) December 10, 2018
Thank you for bringing awareness. As a cardiologist I've been trying to raise awareness about heart attack in women. Symptoms:— Afshine Emrani MD FACC (@afshineemrani) December 10, 2018
2- unexplained fatigue
3- discomfort between shoulder blades
4- shortness of breath
Ofetn in women no chest pain.
Women have to take symptoms seriously. THANKS for raising awareness. Our symptoms are much different from a man's and can't be ignored.— Bunny May (@bunnyt1960) December 10, 2018
We as women are bad for not taking symptoms seriously. Having worked in the medical field, I never wanted to clog up an ER. Last summer I let a brain bleed go undiagnosed until I went blind (sight came back after surgery)🙂. I ignored a 5 day long migraine.— Kristen Osborn (@craycrayusa) December 10, 2018
We thought mine was my asthma. Actually in the hospital three days when I had a heart attack.— kathy bentley (@Katoh1Kathy) December 10, 2018
I was at a funeral Thursday for a woman who was sick all last weekend, starting Friday night...reportedly vomiting and diarrhea. She had had a massive heart attack and flat lined in the ambulance Sunday morning. She was 77. This tweet is important.— Kristen Northrup (@khnorthrupesq) December 10, 2018
So glad you called! My sister died just this way 11 years ago this week. She left work and drove herself to her doctor’s office and collapsed in the waiting room. My MIL also had this sort of pain and died suddenly. I often stress about “how do you know this is different?”— Healthier Kitchen (@healthierkitchn) December 10, 2018
So, ladies, now we know. Be aware of the symptoms and take care of yourselves — just like you take care of everyone else you love.