A heart attack is a medical emergency, with males and females showing similar symptoms. However, certain symptoms, depending on the sex of a person, may be more common.
This article examines the symptoms of a heart attack, risk factors, and ways of preventing them for men and women.
Symptoms of a heart attack
When the blood flow to the heart gets blocked, a heart attack occurs. A heart attack can be suggested by multiple symptoms. These are:
- Chest discomfort or pain: A person may experience pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of their chest. This may come and go or persist for more than a few minutes.
- Pain or discomfort in other body parts: A person may also experience pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the stomach, jaw, back, or neck.
- Shortness of breath: A person may feel a shortness of breath with or without chest pain.
Some other heart attack symptoms may include:
- cold sweat
- feeling light-headed
- heart palpitations
- sleep disturbances
How do males and females describe symptoms?
A research in 2019 says chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack.
However, the study states that less common symptoms are more likely to occur in males, such as heartburn, back pain, or indigestion-like pain.
Females, on the other hand, may be more likely to feel a general sense of unwellness or unexplained weakness.
Research suggests that more often than males, females may also feel throat pain, neck pain, and nausea.
Heart attack risk factors for males and females are similar. The following risk factors are identified by the American Heart Foundation:
- increasing age
- being male
- parents with heart disease
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- physical inactivity
- living with obesity
- alcohol intake
A 2018 study looks at the disparities in depression levels and rates of complications following a heart attack between males and females.
They found that women were more likely to develop depressive symptoms and complications were more likely to be experienced.
Some of the more common complications after a heart attack that people may experience include:
- Arrhythmias: Sometimes, a heart attack may disrupt the natural electrical rhythm of the heart, leading to arrhythmias. In these cases, a person may require a pacemaker until the rhythm returns to normal.
- Angina: A heart attack may damage blood vessels, resulting in the heart not getting enough blood supply. Doctors refer to this pain as angina and may prescribe medication to help prevent flare-ups.
- Heart failure: If a heart attack causes severe damage, a person may experience heart failure. Treatments for this include heart surgery or installing a pacemaker.
Preventing a heart attack
Any of the risk factors, such as sex and genetic risk of heart failure, associated with heart attacks are not reversible.
However, by concentrating on lifestyle changes, a person can lower their risk of a heart attack, such as:
- Reducing or limiting alcohol intake: Low-to-moderate intake of alcohol may have some benefits for heart health. However, excessive drinking can damage the heart.
- Regularly exercising: Regular physical activity reduces blood pressure and the risk of death from a heart attack.
- Adopting a Mediterranean diet: Research suggests that people who consume Mediterranean diets may have better heart health.
- Stopping smoking: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute note that the risk of heart problems decrease soon after people quit smoking. This risk continues to decline over time.
- Losing weight: Researchers link obesity to cardiovascular issues. Therefore, losing weight may reduce the risk of a heart attack.
When to see a doctor
A medical emergency is a heart attack. If a person shows any symptoms, they should immediately seek medical attention.
The American College of Cardiology Foundation states that early symptoms are present in 50 percent of people who suffer a heart attack.
An individual could lower their risk of developing heart damage by seeking treatment in the early stages.
Generally, there are similar signs of heart attack in males and females, including chest pain or shortness of breath.
Males, however, are often more likely to experience heart pain, back pain, or an indigestion sensation. Females are more likely to experience a sense of unwellness and unexplained fatigue in the meantime.
People are unable to modify all their risk factors for a heart attack. They will, however, minimize their probability by adopting a healthier lifestyle, engaging in daily physical activity, avoiding smoking, and limiting the intake of alcohol.