My mother had a heart attack a few months ago because the hospital didn’t take her pre-heart attack symptoms seriously enough. My mother didn’t know what other tests to ask for to conclusively determine what was going on. This actually happens to a lot of women. I would like to take the opportunity to:
1. Bring to everyone’s attention the signs and symptoms of heart attacks. Note: They do NOT always include chest pain or shortness of breath! And ECGs (aka EKGs) are NOT always conclusive.
2. Encourage everyone to be their own advocate. If you feel there’s something wrong, demand care. Do not allow yourself to be released from care until you are taken care of. If you need to, search for your symptoms online, research the types of tests that could be done, and ask about them.
– Sign and Symptoms of Heart Attack
– My mother’s story
– Article on woman misdiagnosed as having acid reflux
a. Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attacks.
Note: People sometimes have similar symptoms to the flu, or acid reflux, and are misdiagnosed accordingly. Women having heart attacks are often told they’re “you’re just tired” or “you’re just anxious” or “take an antacid”.
ANY of the signs below, NOT necessarily along with chest pain, can be a sign of a heart attack.
If you have any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
b. My mother’s story:
Roz Guttman here to tell you of my recent heart attack. The reason I am writing this is that I feel women should be aware that we are quite different from men. Our survival rate is different (not so successful in that area, sorry to say), our symptoms are different and as I heard on the radio yesterday, and as I experienced personally, women are not necessarily given the same attention that men receive.
So here we go:
A few weeks ago on a Thursday evening I started feeling weakness in both arms. Weird. The next day along with the weakness I felt tightness in my jaw. These symptoms were infrequent and for the most part I felt fine. Shabbos morning I told my husband David that I wouldn’t be going to shul, that I needed to sleep, that I was feeling funny again, but to please mention my symptoms to our cardiologist friend, Stan, in shul.
David woke me up at 10:30am to say that Stan was downstairs and wanted to ask me a few questions – when did I start feeling this way, what were my symptoms, etc. He insisted that I go to the hospital to be checked out, that it could be nothing but to act on the side of caution. The ambulance came – took my blood pressure and a cardiogram – all was good but a trip to the hospital would be playing it safe. So off I went.
In emergency, questions were asked again about my symptoms and the tests began: chest x-ray, ultrasound, two cardiograms and two blood tests a few hours apart. Passed them all. There was an elevation in my troponin levels. (Troponin is a protein that leaks into the blood when there is damage to the heart muscle). Normal is around 15-ish ng/l. Mine were in the gray area: 37 in one blood test and 38 on the second.
Apparently, with those levels, one can technically be released from the hospital as there wasn’t a significant change in the levels on the two blood tests, so a third test was not technically required (however, when presenting with symptoms of a heart attack, another test three hours later is recommended). Basically, I got a clean bill of health – so by 7:00 p.m. we left the hospital…..BUT…those funny feelings came back on our way out. I thought – they must be psychosomatic.
P.S. Tuesday came and the symptoms returned with a vengeance. This time my teeth were hurting, my jaw was tight, the left side of my head was pounding, my arms were extremely weak and I was hyperventilating – BUT NO CHEST PAIN. David took a look at me and immediately called for an ambulance. They arrived and took a cardiogram. I HAD A HEART ATTACK. This time with sirens blaring I was in the hospital in ten minutes and within minutes I was wheeled to the cath lab and had a stent inserted.100% blockage of my right coronary artery. I was extremely fortunate, baruch HASHEM. The heart attack and subsequent heart damage could have been prevented if they had taken me more seriously three days before.
Sorry for being so long-winded in relating this event. I just want you all to be aware. The first time I went to the hospital – did the emergency doctor do anything wrong? – no. It was his call to release me and he had followed protocol (the protocols may be insufficient). Could he have been more tuned-in to my symptoms and have me stay longer for further observation and test my troponin level again a few hours later – absolutely yes. Could they have done an angiogram (like most probably would have been done for men)? Yes again. But I didn’t know to ask.
Basically, I’m saying that we should be our own advocate. Should I have made an about turn when I felt the symptoms recur as I left the hospital the first time – sure (but they said I was ok to go, right?)
Please be aware that heart attacks are more prevalent now and a recent study showed that in the age range 34-55 in women – they are more common than ever. Studies have shown that women are much less likely to be taken seriously when reporting heart attack symptoms, that women themselves usually wait an hour longer before they decide to go to the hospital, and that women had a 50% higher chance than men of being misdiagnosed following a heart attack. So be attentive to your pains and if they continue and you are already in the hospital insist on further testing!!!
Doctors please listen to what your patients are telling you. Results of tests – sorry to say, don’t always tell the whole story.
Baruch Hashem I am fine.
p.s. I have and always had low blood pressure and low cholesterol.
c. Woman told to take an antacid