The Heart of the Matter: The most life-threatening misconception of a heart attack

WHEN THE TOPIC of a myocardial infarction arises — commonly known as a heart attack — most people think of a middle-aged man clutching at his chest in pain and then falling to the floor. Unfortunately, that image is erroneous a large portion of the time, and it’s a misconception held by many doctors and healthcare workers. That misconception may well be hurting women’s health.

The truth of the matter is that women suffer acute myocardial infarctions, too, but a woman’s symptoms are likely to be different than a man’s. Those differences — paired with the misconception of only men having heart attacks — can lead to missed diagnoses and a lack of treatment for many women, according to a first-ever scientific statement by the American Heart Association on myocardial infarctions in women.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the U.S., yet this misperception that only men have heart attacks may be leading to women not getting the right level of treatment when suffering a heart attack. The statistics tell us that women have considerably higher mortality rates — regardless of age — than do their male counterparts. Statistics cited by the release maintain that 26 percent of women versus 19 percent of men die within the year following their first heart attack, and 47 percent women versus 36 percent men die within five years.

One problematic point is that women are more likely to present with atypical symptoms beyond the expected chest pain. Women were more likely to describe their symptoms as tightness, pressure, or squeezing; shoulder and/or arm pain was twice more likely in women than in men for predicting an Acute Coronary Syndrome such as a heart attack. Other heart attack symptoms common to women include nausea/ vomiting, shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, anxiousness, and pain in the upper back, neck, or jaw.

This column is sponsored by Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida.



BIO: Dr. Irfan Siddiqui is a board-certified interventional cardiologist and a practicing physician at the Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida. He takes pride in taking an integrated approach for his patients to provide comprehensive, consistent care. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (863) 42-HEART and ask to meet with Dr. Siddiqui.

Posted March 4, 2016

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