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This is how you (as a woman) recognize a heart attack

Suddenly you have a stabbing pain in your chest, in your jaw and a feeling of tightness. Instead of recognizing the signs, you ignore them. Because a heart attack won't happen to you. Right?


In a heart attack or infarction, a branch of the coronary arteries is usually closed. Part of the heart muscle dies due to lack of oxygen. The diagnosis of a heart attack is still more often missed in women than in men. This is partly because the complaints that women get have different accents than the symptoms of men. A woman's body is simply not the same as a man's. Pain in the jaw, upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting overshadow the more recognizable symptoms of a heart attack, such as tightness of the chest and chest pain, which, for example, causes women to be sent to an internist, but afterwards it turns out to have been a stroke. Another difference is that men and women deal with signals differently. Women often first seek an explanation and do not immediately take their complaints seriously. As a result, they sometimes lose valuable time. Men, on the other hand, generally go to the doctor faster with their complaints.

Fortunately, thanks in part to the prevention guidelines, specialists are increasingly paying attention to the signs that may indicate a heart attack in women. But you can't lump women together either. Some women are more likely to have a heart attack than others. "Women who have had preeclampsia, for example, are twice as likely to have a heart attack," says cardiologist Angela Maas, who specializes in women's hearts. “A pregnancy is a kind of stress test for your later risk of cardiovascular disease. Nearly half of the women with preeclampsia already had high blood pressure by the age of 40. Such elevated blood pressure can cause women to have a heart attack within ten years of pregnancy.”

In women, several signs can indicate a heart attack:

  • tight pressure in the chest (may radiate to the arms, neck, jaw, back and stomach area and lasts longer than five minutes)
  • sweating, nausea and/or vomiting • abdominal pain upper • pain between the shoulder blades • shortness of breath
  • extreme fatigue • dizziness • restless feeling, anxiety and rapid breathing

Would you like to know what to do to keep your heart healthy and/or how stress affects your heart? You can read it on pages 28 to 31 in the October issue of Santé.

Text:Loes van de Mosselaar, Sante 10 &image:Getty Images