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Heart attack warnings: Gender makes a difference

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When you think about signs of a heart attack, the notion is largely based on what is portrayed on television and in movies. The victim clutches his chest, has pain down the left arm, experiences crushing pain in his chest, and crumples to the floor in agony. These symptoms can and often do represent signs of a heart attack...for a man, that is.

Doctors, other healthcare providers, and the general public, however, are only beginning to recognize and accept that heart attack can present very differently in women. Indeed the differences are so significant that signs of heart disease and ultimately heart attacks often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed among women. For whatever reason, it has taken a long time and a great deal of contradictory experiences for the realization that women can and do have serious cardiac issues. Failure to diagnose in a timely manner, however, has sadly been the reason why women fare so poorly after having a heart attack.

The respective hearts of men and women do not function in precisely the same manner. This is one situation in which assuming that 'one size fits all' can result in deadly consequences. Fortunately, women's groups are making themselves heard, increasing awareness, and subsequently engaging in educational and advocacy programs to ensure that the proper knowledge is available, not only to women but to the medical profession as well as the general population.

If you are a woman experiencing any type of chest or back discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, profuse sweating, or fluttering sensation in the chest, you should certainly see your healthcare provider immediately or head to the closest emergency room. You need not -- and should not -- wait for the typical male heart attack symptoms of feeling as though an elephant is sitting on your chest. You could die while waiting for the traditionally accepted symptoms of a heart attack. Women often experience indigestion, extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting prior to having a heart attack. Please do not try to convince yourself that it's nothing; that could be the worst, and maybe even the last, decision you ever make.

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