For women, good information on what to do during a suspected Heart Attack.

By ADHansen Latest Reply 2012-06-01 00:12:01 -0500
Started 2011-03-08 08:16:34 -0600


This has been passed on from an ER nurse and is the best description of this event that she had ever heard. Please read, pay attention, and send it on!


I was aware that female heart attacks are different, but this is the best description I've ever read.

Women and heart attacks (Myocardial Infarction). Did you know that women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have when experiencing heart attack … you know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest and dropping to the floor that we see in the movies. Here is the story of one woman's experience with a heart attack..

I had a heart attack at about 10:30 p.m. with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might've brought it on.

I was sitting all snugly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, 'A-A-h, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.

A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you've been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you've swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable.. You realize you shouldn't have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation—-the only trouble was that I hadn't taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m.

After it seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasming), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR).

This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws. 'AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening — we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of an MI happening, haven't we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, 'Dear God, I think I'm having a heart attack!'

I lowered the footrest dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, if this is a heart attack, I shouldn't be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else … but, on the other hand, if I don't, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up in a moment.

I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialed 911 (the Paramedics). I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn't feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the Paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to unbolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in.

I unlocked the door and then lay down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don't remember the medics coming in, their examination, lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance, or hearing the call they made to St.. Jude ER on the way, but I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the Cardiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance. He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like 'Have you taken any medications?'') but I couldn't make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again, not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side by side stents to hold open my right coronary artery.

I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the Paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St. Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stents.

Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you to know what I learned firsthand.

1. Be aware that something very different is happening in your body not the usual men's symptoms but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) MI because they didn't know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some Maalox or other anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed, hoping they'll feel better in the morning when they wake up … which doesn't happen. My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you've not felt before.. It is better to have a 'false alarm' visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!

2. Note that I said ''Call the Paramedics.'' And if you can, take an aspirin. Ladies, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!
Do NOT try to drive yourself to the ER you are a hazard to others on the road.
Do NOT have your panicked husband who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what's happening with you instead of the road.
Do NOT call your doctor — he doesn't know where you live and if it's at night you won't reach him anyway, and if it's daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell you to call the Paramedics. He doesn't carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do, principally OXYGEN that you need ASAP. Your Dr. will be notified later.
3. Don't assume it couldn't be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count. Research has discovered that a cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it's unbelievably high and/or accompanied by high blood pressure). MI's are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your system to sludge things up in there.
Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep.
Let's be careful and be aware. The more we know, the better chance we could survive.

So, do you find this fact or fiction? Your input would be much appreciated.


8 replies

CWMecca 2012-05-31 09:16:17 -0500 Report

Last August 12 I was experiencing extreme nausea, vomiting, pressure in my chest and back (like being squeezed in a huge vise). My boyfriend thought it might be my gallbladder. Finally I let him call 911 and the paramedics were dispatched. I continued to vomit in the ambulance, never lost consciousness and was to the point of yelling at people in the ER to "do something" already! I can't remember if they did an ekg though. At the hospital they did an ekg and some other tests and then the doc came back, hours later it seemed, to tell me that I'd had a heart attack! I was in the hospital for over a week, many tests, they couldn't do a stent at all because the artery was too blocked. I'm looking at bypass surgery in the future now. I wasn't aware then that women's symptoms and men's could be so different.

HeartHawk 2012-06-01 00:09:40 -0500 Report


Thanks for sharing your story about a classic heart attack scenario. It will help a lot of people to recognize symptoms earlier!


tankmom 2011-04-12 23:03:48 -0500 Report

Thank you Ms. Hansen. Excellent info from you, ca0371 and marla also. When will the emt's and er's stop thinking that age is indication that it cannot be a heart attack. I know a family where the husband had a heart attack and was sent home, I believe with the diagnosis of muscle pain. Go home and take ibuprofen. He was early 30's and fortunately is still alive today.

HeartHawk 2012-06-01 00:12:01 -0500 Report


Bingo! I also know a guy who had a heart attack at 30 after water-skiing! Although rare in 30 year olds, heart attacks can still occur. Symptoms must be taken seriously at any age!


ca0371 2011-03-21 15:49:59 -0500 Report

Thank you for such an eloquent recounting of your story! My story is similar.

Twice while sleeping I woke up with a pressure in my chest. I rolled over both times & it went away. So I went back to sleep both times. Later, I got up for the day & went about my business. I even thougt about looking up what women's symptoms are for a Heart Attack. I never got around to it. About 9 that night we sat down for a late dinner & the pressure came back. Someone was standing on my chest & wouldn't get off! After about 10 minutes of trying to move around to get it to go away (it worked last time!!), I told my husband it was time to take a drive. He frantically put the dinner in the fridge. I calmly turned the computer off, changed my shirt, took my jewlery off & put my coat on. The ER is only 2 miles down the road. By time we got there I was shivering uncontrolably. I didn't think too much of it as i'm always cold & it was a breezy, chilly night. We waited a few minutes before the nurses were free. My husband was anxiously wanting to take me to the other hospital in town. I told him to relax, it's like going to a restaurant. The wait is 20 minutes & it'll take you that long to get to another! Once I got in, they didn't know what to do with me. Heart Attack or Blot Clot? By this time I had pain rediating down both arms to the elbow & 5 blankets on me. They couldn't get an accurated EKG reading. About 45 minutes after the pressure started, it stopped. I got something to eat & 2 hours later, it came back. Same person standing on my chest, pain down both arms to the forearms. This time I got sick too. It wasn't until the next morining when my Troponin numbers came in indicating I'd had a Heart Attack did we know. I was put towards the front of the list for the Cath lab. I had 1 stent put in my Right Coronary Artery & then the rest of artery collapsed. They used higher levels of 2 different meds than they'd ever used on anyone before to get the artery to stop spasming.

I was calm during the entire event. At no time did I get upset until I heard the words "You've had a Heart Attack." I was 38 & the report reads like a 70 year old. I was told that if I'd been 70, I wouldn't be here today. I had no known risk factors. I created my family history.

marlaj33471 2011-03-16 16:26:36 -0500 Report

Very similar except my left arm was tingling and numb, not my jaws and I knew within 2-3 min that something was seriously wrong. Paramedics took around 15 min to arrive and simply blew it off-one stating my arm is numb cause I was lying on it and the other rolling his eyes when I insisted I go to the hospital. 5 min in the ambulance I passed out and suffered the heart attack and had to be shocked. I woke up to the driver yelling at me and then we were off again and then it happened again only I was awake and could hear and see everything but could not move or breathe. I cannot describe the fear I felt. After what seemed like forever, they zapped me again. When I got to the hospital, the docs told me I died twice in the ambulance and was then flown to a heart institute and put in vcicu for 4 days. I had a stent put in and was told I will need another in a few months and if my heart is not beating like it should by then I may need a pacemaker. I am 37 and was told my heart looks like a 70yr old heart. Now I have to worry about congestive heart failure and I am always scared.
I am glad you made it to the phone and pulled through. Thank you for sharing your story. I am new to this site and hope to learn from all of you.

LabRat90 2011-03-14 10:44:10 -0500 Report

I'm glad you made it to the phone. These are similar symptoms to my Mom's heart problems. Excellent cautions.

HeartHawk 2011-03-13 23:29:23 -0500 Report


Thanks for the great post! There is nothing like having it described first-hand to help people sort things out. How have you been since the stents were put in?


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