I went to the Emergency Room on Monday because I had been experiencing chest pains since the previous Wednesday and thought I was having a heart attack. It’s a strange feeling, wondering if you’re going to fall over dead in an instant. It’s no fun. In fact, it’s downright frightening.
The ER got me in right away and started blood work, an EKG and a chest x-ray. Thankfully, all of my tests came back negative. There had been no damage to my heart, no sign of blood clots and all of my levels were good. The prognosis ended up being a guess that the discomfort I had been experiencing was muscular/skeletal.
Whew! I can’t tell you how relieved I was and am.
Heart attack in women manifests itself differently than in men. According to WebMD, these are the six most common heart attack symptoms in women:
1.Chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom, but some women may experience it differently than men. It may feel like a squeezing or fullness, and the pain can be anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side. It's usually "truly uncomfortable" during a heart attack, says cardiologist Rita Redberg, MD, director of Women’s Cardiovascular Services at the University of California, San Francisco. "It feels like a vise being tightened."
2.Pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw. This type of pain is more common in women than in men. It may confuse women who expect their pain to be focused on their chest and left arm, not their back or jaw. The pain can be gradual or sudden, and it may wax and wane before becoming intense. If you're asleep, it may wake you up. You should report any "not typical or unexplained" symptoms in any part of your body above your waist to your doctor or other health care provider, says cardiologist C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
3.Stomach pain. Sometimes people mistake stomach pain that signals a heart attack with heartburn, the flu, or a stomach ulcer. Other times, women experience severe abdominal pressure that feels like an elephant sitting on your stomach, says cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.
4.Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. If you're having trouble breathing for no apparent reason, you could be having a heart attack, especially if you're also having one or more other symptoms. "It can feel like you have run a marathon, but you didn't make a move," Goldberg says.
5.Sweating. Breaking out in a nervous, cold sweat is common among women who are having a heart attack. It will feel more like stress-related sweating than perspiration from exercising or spending time outside in the heat. "Get it checked out" if you don't typically sweat like that and there is no other reason for it, such as heat or hot flashes, Bairey Merz says.
6.Fatigue. Some women who have heart attacks feel extremely tired, even if they've been sitting still for a while or haven't moved much. "Patients often complain of a tiredness in the chest," Goldberg says. "They say that they can't do simple activities, like walk to the bathroom."
I had five of the six symptoms listed above. The only one I didn’t experience was stomach pain. So, if you have these symptoms, don’t freak out; but get to your doctor or to a hospital as quickly as possible. I waited too long. If my problem had been my heart I might not be here typing this right now. I was stupid.
When my chest pains started on Wednesday I felt instantly exhausted and I ended up taking a nap for an hour. This happened every day. The pains would start and I would break out in a sweat, get lightheaded and feel fatigued. Each time, within about thirty minutes I would have to lay down and would fall instantly asleep. If you are experiencing this, get to a hospital and let them check your heart and make sure you are not having a heart attack. If I learned anything from talking to the doctors, it was that the biggest mistake people (particularly women) make is waiting to seek medical attention.
No one wants to rush off to the ER, and I was no different. I kept telling myself the discomfort was probably caused by gas or that I probably irritated something while working out. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of nothing. Again, this is not intelligent thinking. If there is even the slightest possibility that something could be wrong with your heart, it’s worth a trip to the hospital.
Some might say I wasted two hours of my life in the Emergency Room on Monday… but I don’t see it that way. It was a learning experience and it gave me new perspective on the life that I have…a life for which I am evermore grateful.
It comes down to the heart of the matter…and with matters of the heart…get help right away. ~