Myths About Heart Attacks

By Dr. Nitanth Vangala, Cardiologist, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center

“That’s a heart attack waiting to happen.” This doesn’t just make for a great caption to accompany a greasy pizza Instagram post, it is indicative of a worrying trend. While most of America’s youth spends their time on their phones and keeping up with the Kardashians, a new trend is emerging and it’s a very real threat to young women.

Recent research shows that heart attacks, once thought to be an “old man’s disease,” are on the rise among young women. While the incidences of heart attacks in younger patients admitted to the hospital with heart attacks has steadily increased, the increase was even greater among young women. Why is this? It could be because coronary artery disease is often viewed as something affecting older men, so women reporting chest pain are not seen as high risk. In addition, heart attack symptoms can present differently among men and women, so the signs may be missed.

Here are a few common myths about heart attacks to be aware of:

  • Myth: It’s an old man’s disease
    • Fact: According to Medical News Today, about 836,546 Americans die of heart disease every year, making it a leading killer among men and women. And even though heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., women often attribute the symptoms to less serious conditions like acid reflux or the flu.
  • Myth: Heart attacks don’t happen to people who are active
    • Fact: Heart attacks can happen to anyone, at any time. Exercise helps, but eating right, not smoking and regularly receiving health checkups can greatly improve your chances of staying heart-healthy.
  • Myth: Heart disease runs in the family, so I’m bound to have it
    • Fact: Women are at higher risk of heart disease if they have a family history of the disease, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk.
  • Myth: The signs of a heart attack are sudden and intense
    • Fact: Symptoms can be subtler and occur when resting or asleep, and often go unnoticed. Many heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort like chest discomfort that may go away and return, shortness of breath, nausea, or pain and discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Here is a list of warning signs of a heart attack:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one of both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating profusely
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

Remember if you experience any of these warning signs, call 9-1-1 right away to get lifesaving treatment.

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