All You Need to Know About Heart Disease . In recent decades, scientists have realized that heart attack symptoms can be quite different for women than for men.
While pain and squeezing sensations in the chest are still the most common symptoms in women, many frequently self-reported symptoms differ greatly from those common in men. Lack of knowledge about the differences in symptoms across genders may be one of the reasons why women generally wait longer than men do to seek out care if they suspect they are having a heart attack.
Symptoms of heart attack in women include:
- unusual fatigue lasting for several days or sudden severe fatigue
- sleep disturbances
- shortness of breath
- indigestion or gas-like pain
- upper back, shoulder, or throat pain
- jaw pain or pain that spreads up to your jaw
- pressure or pain in the center of your chest, which may spread to your arm
Base your decision to seek care on what feels normal and abnormal for you. If you are experiencing symptoms that feel new to you, and don’t agree with your doctor’s conclusion, get a second opinion.
Heart attack in women over 50
After menopause, which generally occurs around age 50, your risk of heart attack increases. During this period of life, your levels of the hormone estrogen drop. Estrogen is believed to help protect the health of your heart, which could explain why the average age of first heart attack is roughly 5 years older in women than in men.
There are additional symptoms of a heart attack that women over the age of 50 may experience. These symptoms include:
- severe chest pain
- pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
Remain aware of these symptoms and schedule regular health checkups with your doctor.
Silent heart attack symptoms
A silent heart attack is like any other heart attack, except it occurs without the usual symptoms. In other words, you may not even realize you’ve experienced a heart attack.
The American Heart Association estimates that as many asTrusted Source 170,000 Americans experience heart attacks each year without even knowing it. Though less symptomatic than a full heart attack, these events cause heart damage and increase the risk of future attacks.
Silent heart attacks are more common among people with diabetes and in those who’ve had previous heart attacks.
Symptoms that may indicate a silent heart attack include:
- mild discomfort in your chest, arms, or jaw that goes away after resting
- shortness of breath and tiring easily
- sleep disturbances and increased fatigue
- abdominal pain or heartburn
- skin clamminess
After having a silent heart attack, you may experience more fatigue than before or find that exercise becomes more difficult. Get regular physical exams to stay on top of your heart health. If you have cardiac risk factors or a family history of cardiac disease, talk to your doctor about getting tests done to check the condition of your heart.
By scheduling regular checkups and learning to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, you can help lower your risk of severe heart damage from a heart attack. This may increase your life expectancy and well-being.
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Last medically reviewed on March 3, 2022
Signs of Stroke or Heart Attack that Everyone Should
A sudden and significant reduction in blood flow to the heart muscle is known as a heart attack, while a similar disruption in circulation to the brain is called a stroke. While both events share some similar symptoms, certain signs of a stroke or heart attack are unique and worth knowing, especially if you or someone close to you has a higher risk of either medical emergency.
In addition to being able to recognize signs of a stroke or heart attack, it’s critical that you know how to respond. While both events can be life threatening, they can often be treated if the person in crisis receives medical attention promptly.
Early warning signs of a stroke or heart attack
Not all heart attacks begin with sudden and severe chest pain. Early heart attack signs can develop slowly and may make you unsure of what’s going on. In addition, symptoms can vary from person to person.
Some common early heart attack symptoms include:
- mild chest pain that starts slowly and then comes and goes
- discomfort in the arms, back, neck, or jaw
- nausea or abdominal pain
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- shortness of breath with or without exertion
Early stroke symptoms can be even subtler. The most common warning sign of a stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a “ministroke.” A TIA can occur hours, days, or months before an actual stroke.
The main difference between a TIA and a full-blown stroke, aside from the severity of symptoms, is the difference is in the imaging findings (MRI) and duration of blockage. TypicallyTrusted Source a TIA blockage is short enough to avoid permanent brain damage.
Typical TIA “ministroke” symptoms include:
- sudden headache
- numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
- balance and walking problems
- sudden confusion
- swallowing difficulties
What to do in an emergency
If you suspect that you or someone near you is having a heart attack or stroke, the first step is to call emergency services (like 911).
You should never try to drive yourself to a hospital emergency department, as you may lose consciousness and be a threat to yourself and others on the road. Waiting for paramedics is advisable as they can begin potentially lifesaving treatment upon arrival and while en route to the hospital.
If a heart attack is suspected, ask the emergency dispatcher if chewing an aspirin is advisable. In many cases, this may help break up a blood clot blocking blood flow to the heart muscle. If your doctor has prescribed nitroglycerin for heart-related chest pain, then take a nitroglycerin tablet.
If a stroke is suspected, try to note the time that symptoms began. Tell the emergency dispatcher, paramedics, or other personnel. A clot-busting drug can be administered only within a few hours of a stroke’s onset. Try to stay calm and rest until help arrives.
For either a heart attack or stroke, CPR may be appropriate to restore blood flow if the individual loses consciousness. The steps for CPR are:
- Place the person on their back
- Place one hand over the other on the center of their chest
- Compress the chest twice per second
Symptoms of heart attack versus stroke
Symptoms of a strokeTrusted Source can often be easier to discern than those of a heart attackTrusted Source. One of the main distinctions is that a stroke tends to cause a sudden and serious neurological symptom, while the main symptom of a heart attack is chest pain.
The arms may also be involved, but while a heart attack may cause pain to run down one or both arms (often, but not always, the left arm), a stroke usually leaves one limb or the face feeling weak or numb.
A person having a heart attack may be able to raise both arms despite the pain. A person having a stroke may be able to raise one but not both arms.
Symptoms of a stroke or heart attack in women
Stroke symptoms in people who are assigned female at birth (women) and people who are assigned male at birth (men) are often similar, though a 2018 studyTrusted Source suggests that women may also have some of the following atypical signs of a stroke:
- overall body weakness
Women are also more likely to experience atypical heart attack symptoms, too. In addition to chest pain and shortness of breath — the most common heart attack symptoms for all groups — women often have one or more of the following symptoms:
- lightheadedness or fainting
- pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
- upper back pain
- flu-like body aches
- extreme fatigue
Signs of a stroke or heart attack in men
In men, the primary reported heart attack symptom is chest pain that’s sometimes described as a squeezing sensation or pressure as though something heavy is resting on the chest. Other common heart attack symptoms for men include:
- upper body pain in the shoulders, neck, or jaw
- shortness of breath
- cold sweat
Common early signs of a stroke include:
- sudden, severe headache
- weakness or numbness on one side of the body or face
- vision problems
- difficulty speaking or understanding others’ speech
Cardiovascular health in the transgender community
Most of the sources used in this article use “men” and “women” to indicate sex and can be assumed to have primarily cisgender participants. However, like most conditions, sex and assigned gender are not the most likely indicator of heart attack or stroke symptoms.
While research on the transgender community is still limited, a recent reviewTrusted Source states, “The transgender community has a higher rate of behavioral and cardiovascular disease risk factors compared with the cisgender population due to the increase in social stressors, health disparity, and poor socioeconomic status.”
Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances can affect your overall cardiovascular health.
Which is more serious a stroke or a heart attack?
Both a stroke and heart attack can be fatal, but a full recovery is also possible in many cases. The outcomes depend upon the severity of the events and how quickly medical support is provided.
With prompt, effective treatment, successful completion of cardiac rehabilitation, and a healthy lifestyle, a heart attack survivor may live many years with few reminders of the attack.
The prognosis after a stroke can be more difficult to predict. Depending on which part of the brain was damaged by the stroke, there can be lifelong complications even after rapid treatment and rehabilitation. Some long-term complications include:
- walking difficulties
- swallowing problems
- reduced function of one or both hands
- cognitive impairment
A 2019 studyTrusted Source also notes that post-stroke seizures occur in 5 to 9 percent of stroke survivors and mood changes, including depressive symptoms, may occur in up to 70 percent of stroke survivors.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy ScienceTrusted Source suggests that nearly 89 percent of first-time stroke survivors may experience one or more of the following complications soon after the event:
- urinary tract infection
- shoulder pain
- musculoskeletal pain other than shoulder pain
- walking difficulties
- swallowing problems
A heart attack is the result of heart disease, which accounts for about 1 in every 4 deathsTrusted Source in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has long been the nation’s number one cause of death.
The American Heart Association reports that stroke accounts for 1 in every 19 deathsTrusted Source in the United States, making it the nation’s fifth leading cause of death.
What to do if you suspect either a heart attack or stroke
A suspected stroke or heart attack should always be treated as a medical emergency. Calling emergency services like 911 immediately may not only save your life but also limit the damage of either a heart attack or stroke.
And as much as possible, try to remain calm. Get help from family members, neighbors, or friends who may be able to assist you while you wait for paramedics or after you get to the hospital.
When signs of a stroke or heart attack present themselves, you may be inclined to deny that such a serious vascular crisis is occurring. But knowing what the telltale signs of each event are and how to respond will give you the best chance at a positive outcome.
This information is especially important if you or a family member face an elevated risk of a heart attack or stroke because of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or other major risk factors.
What You Should Know About Heart Attacks from
Shoveling snow can place demands on your heart that are as significant as exercise on a treadmill. Because shoveling snow can increase your cardiac demand so significantly, it’s easy to wonder if this frequent winter activity could send you to the hospital.
Indeed, shoveling snow involves strenuous physical activity and cold temperatures. And 2019 research shows that these elements can contribute to increased risks for cardiac events. Let’s look into why this activity can be potentially hazardous and what you can do to prevent a heart attack while shoveling snow.
Common heart attack symptoms after shoveling snow
If you are going to shovel snow, it’s important to know your limits and recognize when your body (especially your heart) is telling you that you’re doing too much. Early warning signs of a heart attack can include:
- mild or “stuttering” pain in the chest, neck, shoulders, left arm, or back
- breaking out in a cold sweat
- heart palpitations or rapid heartbeat
According to the American Heart Association (AHA)Trusted Source, more serious symptoms to watch out for include:
- intense chest pain, which may feel like a squeezing or tightness in your chest
- feeling too dizzy to stand
- pain that radiates down one arm or the other
- shortness of breath
Just an FYI — pushing a snowblowerTrusted Source can also cause significant levels of exertion. So you’re not out of the woods if you plan on switching snow shoveling for snow blowing.
Is this an emergency?
If you or someone near you is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 or local emergency services. The operator will give you instructions on what to do until the paramedics arrive.
Do not administer CPR unless the person having a heart attack has lost consciousness and the heart has stopped beating. If this happens, take steps immediately.
- Place one hand on top of the other on their sternum.
- Press rapidly — twice per second.
- Press down 2 inches, and allow chest to rise.
CPR can be exhausting, and you may want to work in rotation with someone until help arrives. Many public spaces also have automated external defibrillators (AEDs)Trusted Source to help restart a heart during an attack.
How long after shoveling snow can you have a heart attack?
There isn’t a lot of data on the specific timing of physical activities, like snow shoveling, that can lead to a heart attack. However, 2019 research indicates that marathon runners who have heart attacks tend to do so toward the last half or later portions of their marathon.
These results suggest the continued physical challenge can ultimately be too much for the heart. That’s an incentive to keep your snow shoveling time down as much as you can. You might decide to clear a small path, and not your whole driveway.
A 2018 review also identified the risks for heart attack in the hour after heavy physical exertion like shoveling snow. The less physically active you are, the more likely you are to have a heart attack in the hour after snow shoveling. Those who exercise more than 5 days per week are the least likely to have a heart attack.
The risk that a cardiovascular event will occur during strenuous physical activity is about 1 in 500,000. Activities that carry the greatest risks include:
- highly competitive sports
- deer hunting
- triathlon events
- snow removal (shoveling)
For the most part, you don’t have to worry about the risks of a cardiac event if you are healthy with no known heart disease history. However, if you have a history of coronary artery disease, you could be at a greater risk of heart problems, including:
- heart attack
- lethal heart rhythms
- sudden cardiac death
Why does shoveling snow cause heart attacks and chest pain?
Shoveling snow is a vigorous physical activity. According to 2019 research, exercising very hard (like you do when shoveling snow) can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen requirements of your body. In some cases, the demand is the same as if you were running full speed on a treadmill.
The AHATrusted Source says very cold temperatures can also cause vasoconstriction, or tightening of blood vessels. Vasoconstriction can affect blood flow to your heart. Winter weather can also raise demands on the heart because your body increases circulation as a way to try and keep you warm.
The results can be chest pain and extreme shortness of breath. The chest pain is a sign of ischemia or affected oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart. If you already experience chest pain with physical activity — a condition known as angina — you especially don’t want to put yourself at risk by shoveling snow.
If you don’t have a history of heart disease or chest pain symptoms, there can still be some risk in shoveling snow. This is because exercise-related deaths from activities like shoveling snow are related to the rupture of plaque in the heart’s arteries or a supply-demand mismatch of oxygen delivery to the heart.
Plaque can build up over time from conditions like high cholesterol. Extreme physical activity or physical stress can cause plaque to break off, sometimes leading to a heart attack when shoveling snow.
How to prevent a heart attack while shoveling snow
You can reduce your risks of chest pain and cardiac-related events while shoveling snow. Some of these steps begin long before the first snowfall.
According to 2019 research, you can:
- Engage in regular physical activity, after consulting with your doctor. This can help you avoid a sedentary lifestyle, which puts you at greatest risk for cardiac events.
- Perform a warmup before starting to shovel snow. This could include taking a walk at an intermediate pace, engaging in light stretching, or doing some other mild physical activity to warm up your muscles and start your heart pumping at a slightly faster rate.
- Push the snowTrusted Source with your shovel instead of lifting it and throwing it. This causes less exertion.
- Recognize when your body is being pushed to a limit. Stop shoveling snow if you experience chest pain, feel lightheaded, are short of breath, or have heart palpitations.
- Perform a cooldown after you are finished shoveling. This involves mild physical activity to gradually help your heart rate slow to its previous level.
Listening to your body and only doing what you are able to do activity-wise is vital to keeping healthy when shoveling snow, especially as you get older.
At what age should I stop shoveling snow?
Research from 2019 shows there is an inverse (opposite) risk for heart attacks from shoveling snow the more active you are. This means if you aren’t active, and choose to start shoveling snow, you’re at greater risk of a heart attack.
Here’s an example. In a large meta-analysis from 2011Trusted Source, men who were not physically active were 56 times more at risk of cardiac arrest from intense physical activity. Men who were very physically active were only 5 times more at risk of cardiac arrest.
What can you take away from these and other similar studies? Think less about age and more about your physical activity status before you get out there, shovel in hand. If you aren’t engaging in regular physical activity, snow shoveling may be best left to someone who is.
Snow shoveling is hard work. It’s such hard work that it can result in a cardiac event, especially if you aren’t very physically active or have a history of heart disease and chest pain. Take steps to minimize your risks by staying active and call 911 or local emergency services if you do have symptoms of a heart attack.