A woman in America suffers a heart attack every minute, according to the National Women’s Health Information Center. Yet women are less likely than men to call 9-1-1 if they think they are having a heart attack, and few are aware of the most common signs of heart attack in women, according to a 2009 survey by the American Heart Association.
As a heart attack survivor and volunteer community educator, I am taken aback by statistics that indicate that women still don’t understand their own personal risk for having a heart attack.
The Office for Women’s Health has launched a national PSA campaign called Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat, with a mission to educate, engage and empower women 50 and over to save their own lives, and to empower bystanders to act and save the lives of their mothers, sisters, and best friends.
The seven most common symptoms of heart attack in women are:
- Chest pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing;
- Upper body pain or discomfort in both arms, the back, neck, jaw or upper stomach;
- Shortness of breath;
- Breaking out in a cold sweat;
- Unusual fatigue;
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness; and
In the American Heart Association survey, 79 percent of women said they’d call 9-1-1 if someone else were having a heart attack, but only half indicated they would call for themselves. One or more of these symptoms should prompt an immediate call to 9-1-1 for emergency medical care. Don’t be concerned about bothering others. Time is critical.
Heart attack survivors I’ve met have given me a variety of reasons why they didn’t make the call: “I didn’t know I was having a heart attack,” or, “My house was too messy,” or, “There’s no one to take care of the kids.”
Join me in getting the word out and help increase women’s heart attack survival rates by better educating people about the signs and symptoms, and by helping them overcome their hesitancy to use the emergency response system.
For more information, visit www.womenshealth.gov/heartattack
Information on the Affordable Healthcare Plan
Age-based guidelines for prevention as part of the new affordable healthcare act
Donna K. Winburn is a volunteer community educator for WomenHeart and a regional spokesperson for the Office of Women’s Health’s national 9-1-1 PSA campaign.