Heart Attack: Fast Facts

  • More than 3 million American women have a history of heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.
  • A heart attack is an event that results in permanent heart damage or death.
  • A heart attack occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes severely or totally blocked, usually by a blood clot.
  • When the heart muscle does not receive the oxygen-rich blood that it needs, it begins to die.
  • The severity of a heart attack usually depends on how much of the heart muscle is injured or dies during the attack.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health, women are more likely to have a greater number of risk factors for heart attacks than men.
  • In general, heart attacks are deadlier to women at any age than they are to men.
  • Compared with male heart attack patients, women are usually about 10 years older at the time of their first attack.
  • Up to 25 percent of heart attacks do not cause symptoms. These are known as silent heart attacks. Most attacks, though, do produce symptoms, which are often severe and frightening.
  • Diagnosing heart attacks can be more difficult in women than men because women tend to have less-typical symptoms.
  • During a heart attack, women are less likely than men to feel severe chest pain typically associated with a heart attack (such as a tightening of the chest) and are more likely to report a feeling of severe heartburn in the upper abdomen or pain in the breast.
  • Women experiencing a heart attack may feel pain in the back, neck or jaw.
  • Women have reported symptoms of unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety in the weeks leading up to their heart attack.
  • Your chance of surviving a heart attack depends largely on the treatment that is given within the first hour after the heart attack.
  • People suffering a heart attack should always receive immediate professional emergency medical intervention.
  • While waiting for help to arrive or on the way to the hospital, people who are having a heart attack are often told to begin chewing aspirin, which inhibits the formation of blood clots. It is thought that taking aspirin while experiencing a heart attack can decrease the risk of death by about 25 percent.
  • After a heart attack, you will need from two weeks to more than six weeks of recovery time, depending on the severity of the attack.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation programs are strongly recommended to help people who have had a heart attack get back on their feet quickly and safely.
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