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Women and Heart Attacks

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession. I enjoy writing, reading historical novels, gardening, and helping people live a healthier life.

Red Dress National Symbol of AHA Source AHA

Red Dress National Symbol of AHA Source AHA

AHA Heart Attack Awareness for Women

Almost two out of three women who die suddenly of heart attacks have no previous symptoms. Each year, the American people nationwide wear red to show their support for women's heart disease awareness on "National Wear Red Day." Half the people that die from heart disease are women.

The AHA observance promotes the red dress symbol. It provides an opportunity for women everywhere to unite in this event, promoting awareness by putting on a favorite red dress, shirt, tie, or red dress pin.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and partner organizations seek to make women more aware of the danger of heart disease. This campaign is especially aimed at women ages 40 to 60, as that is when the women's risk of heart disease begins to climb. However, it is important for younger women also as they can start to develop heart disease at a younger age.

A Wake-Up Call

A national awareness campaign for women about heart disease created and introduced the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 to deliver an urgent wake-up call to American women.

While I have not had a heart attack, my doctor decided to order a heart test due to my risk factors. When I went for the test, they did an EKG, and I was told not to leave the hospital due to abnormalities. The next morning, I had two stents put in one of my arteries. If this had not been discovered, I would have had a major heart attack within a short period of time. I had none of the traditional symptoms!

Plaque in coronary arteries

Plaque in coronary arteries

Demographic Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Heart disease disproportionately affects women of color; African-American and Hispanic women, in particular, have high rates of the major risk factors for heart disease, including obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

An astonishing 80% of women between the ages of 40 and 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease. According to research compiled by the NHLBI, having just one risk factor doubles your chance of developing heart disease.

While a few risk factors can't be changed, most of them can. It is so important to realize you can take control of your body and reduce your risk. It can be as simple as eating healthier and taking a nice walk in the morning.

Heart showing arteries become occluded  source (MedicineNet)

Heart showing arteries become occluded source (MedicineNet)

Aspirin as Prevention

Mayo Clinic emphasizes the prevention of heart attacks by using aspirin. They list several points to remember:

  • Most heart attacks happen between 6 AM and noon, so having one at night when the heart is at rest is unusual and may be related to sleep apnea.
  • If you take a baby aspirin a day, take it at night because it has a 24-hour half-life; therefore, the aspirin is strongest in your system in the morning hours.
  • Aspirin lasts a long time, and if it is too old, it will smell like vinegar.

Bayer is making a crystal aspirin that dissolves instantly on the tongue, which gets into your system twice as fast. Keep it at your bedside in case of a heart attack. If you are awakened at night with chest pain, take two of these aspirins immediately, then call 911. Then, sit in a chair, and don't lie down.

What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a family history of early heart disease
  • Age (55 or older for women)
  • Stress, especially with high-stress jobs
Heart attack warning signs

Heart attack warning signs

What Are the Signs of a Heart Attack?

There are several possible signs that you may be having a heart attack, and they include:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes.
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms. The pain may be mild to intense. It may feel like pressure, tightness, burning, or heavyweight. It may be located in the chest, upper abdomen, neck, jaw, or inside the arms or shoulders.
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.
  • Anxiety, nervousness and/or cold, sweaty skin.
  • Paleness or pallor.
  • Increased or irregular heart rate.
  • Feeling of impending doom
  • Nausea or vomiting

Denial: A Classic Symptom of Heart Attack

Not all of these symptoms occur in every heart attack. You may have chest discomfort while walking on a treadmill or doing other exercises. You may have some chest discomfort known as angina briefly, and then it may go away. Many people make the mistake of ignoring these symptoms until it's too late. Do not ignore these symptoms. Seek out your doctor so he can run some tests if necessary.

Almost 2/3 of the women who die suddenly of heart attacks have no previous symptoms. You don't always have pain when you have a heart attack.

If you have these signs yourself or are with someone exhibiting these symptoms, call 911 immediately! Chew two aspirins immediately also, as this helps prolong your life. If the person loses consciousness, begin CPR by putting the person on the floor to have a hard surface.

Remember there are new CPR guidelines; you don't need to be certified to give chest compressions, as that is what is required. Use both hands to push up and down on the sternum. It helps to count to keep your rhythm, saying 1 1000, 2 1000, and so forth. Do not stop the compressions until the medics arrive unless the person regains consciousness.


Sobering Statistics

According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and people of all ages and backgrounds can get this condition. Half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2006 were women. In 2020, 314,186 women died of heart attacks, which is 1 in 3 female deaths.

More than one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Since 1984, the number of CVD deaths for females has exceeded those for males.

About 8.4 million females living today have a history of heart attack, angina pectoris, or both. Of these, 3.5 million have a history of myocardial infarction.

My Experience

I was a critical care nurse for many years working with heart attack patients, and I cared for patients recovering from open heart surgery.

I also worked for six years teaching cardiac rehabilitation. If you had any cardiac problems a cardiac rehab program will teach you everything you need to know to get healthy and stay healthy.

In Conclusion

As you can see heart disease is a major problem for all people and more than half are women. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of heart disease, and if you experience the symptoms call your doctor. If you develop symptoms that are heart symptoms call 911 immediately. I can't stress that too much. Time is crucial to saving your life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 08, 2012:

healthtips, Diabetes is certainly a big cause of heart attacks and I agree with you about eating healthy. Thank you for your comments.

bhagyashri, The heart is in the center of your chest but just slightly to the left.

bhagyashri on March 08, 2012:

what herat location

healthtips7 from Singapore on March 02, 2012:

As well we know, heart attack is one of the common complications of diabetes. So if you want to avoid heart disease, you should also care to what you eat (keep focus to eat health food). A helpful hub, keep posting '_'

moneycop from JABALPUR on August 17, 2011:

u welcome dear!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 17, 2011:

moneycop, It sure does happen to men also. Thanks for your comments.

moneycop from JABALPUR on August 17, 2011:

yea agreed also...but often it happens to man...but its a great hub with all the reason logically and scientifically presented.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 30, 2011:

leanne, I agree that so many women don't know the risks. I was a cardiac nurse for many years, from Critical Care nursing for patients with heart attacks, open hear surgery and eventually I taught Cardiac Rehabilitation. Certainly 45 is very young for a heart attack but they can even happen younger than that as I cared for a 29 year old lady. I'm glad you wrote the book and I'll check it out. Thanks for your comments.

leanne.marley on May 29, 2011:

Hi there, I love this hub and I also publish hubs on heart related stuff. I had a heart attack at 45 years old and it left me physically and emotionally struggling. I couldn't find any practical info on heart attacks in younger women so with the encouragement of my doctor and cardiologist have written a book. Check it out at

I'm really glad that there are hubs of this quality out there as it helps to spread the word that women need to look after themselves and know the symptoms of a heart attack!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 23, 2011:

france, I would think his normal life would include some medication or medical care but I really don't know if that would make him more susceptible to a heart attack without knowing more about his particular situation. Thanks your your comments.

france1982 from Planet Earth on April 22, 2011:

I have read an article about seven years child who has “only” half a heart. He's name is Sammy. He still alive now. Her mother once said that Sammy had a normal life. I don't know whether he have a higher risk of getting hearth attack or not when he enter 55 years old....

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 08, 2011:

CreateSquidoo, I agree completely and I have prescient your comment.

CreateSquidoo on February 08, 2011:

We should take good care of our heart. Our heart is so precious!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 05, 2011:

Audry, Thanks so much for your comment

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on February 05, 2011:

Great info and love the diagram! Voted up!!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 04, 2011:

Hello, I very much appreciate your comment.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on February 04, 2011:

A brilliant hub to make people aware of the danger and how to try to prevent it.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 04, 2011:

sueroy, The good news is you can make changes in reduce your risk immensely. I appreciate your comment.

Susan Mills from Indiana on February 03, 2011:

This was informative, and to be honest, just a bit scary! Maybe that's a good thing.

Thank you for this hub.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 03, 2011:

Support Med,I hope so to, that's the idea. I really appreciate your comments.

Support Med. from Michigan on February 03, 2011:

Great hub! Hope this info will help us all become more health conscious. Voted and rated.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 03, 2011:

vydyulashashi, I appreciate your comments.

God bless you also.

vydyulashashi from Hyderabad,India on February 03, 2011:

Very informative hub, very useful for awareness.

God Bless you!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 02, 2011:

rpalulis, When I was nursing I had so many women patients that had heart attacks but were clueless before happened. I did one of spread awareness among women since the number of women that are having harder taxes climb so much in the last couple decades. Thanks so much for your comments

rpalulis from NY on February 02, 2011:

This is such a great way to spread awareness of heart attacks amongst women. Great detail Pamela, thanks for sharing all the signs and symptoms, hopefully anyone reading this who can identify with any of the following will get themselves checked out immediately and begin making the necessary changes to reduce the risk of having a heart attack.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 02, 2011:

Darsky, I'm glad you love the hub and the information. So, take good care of yourself. Thanks so much for your comments. Love and peace to you.

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on February 02, 2011:

Awesome Pam, gosh I Love this hub, I will be sure to wear read all day on the 4th, and thank you for all this really important info. Love you bunches and I will be sending you a private note. rate this up up love & peace darski