Heart disease is the nation's number one killer for women. But, the well-known heart attack symptoms acute pain, tightness, burning and a dull ache in the chest describe what men typically experience during an attack. For many women the signs of a heart attack are completely different and can go unrecognized. Women tend to ignore signs of heart attack, thus increasing the likelihood of tragic consequences. With heightened attention to the facts about symptoms and treatments, much of this can be prevented.

Dr. Karla Kurrelmeyer, cardiologist who specializes in women's heart disease at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Houston, offers the following information for women:


Nausea, shoulder pain and exhaustion can be the only signs a female experiences during an attack. Heart disease tends to come later in women than in men, on average 10 years after menopause. Women are more likely to die from their heart attacks.


Most people know to get to an emergency room immediately when they've identified that they're having a heart attack. However, research shows that women go to the hospital on average one full hour later than men do after experiencing an attack. Most benefits of medical treatment occur in the first six hours after an attack, so delayed medical treatment reduces chances of full recovery. This could be due to a lack of education about onset and symptoms.


Clot-buster drugs may be immediately given to break up the clot and allow blood to get through to the heart. If necessary a balloon or a stent can be placed in the clogged artery to open the artery and strengthen the artery wall. Sometimes surgery and other procedures are required, depending on the situation.


Maintain low cholesterol levels. Exercise. Quit smoking. If you have diabetes, keep it under control. Monitor your blood pressure, and keep it in check. Know your family medical history. If there's a history of heart disease, start earlier and be even more diligent about prevention.

For more information on the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center, see http://www.debakeyheartcenter.com.

Methodist Hospital, Houston
6565 Fannin St.
Houston, TX 77030
United States