Volume 20, Number 8

The Bridge

       April, 2004

By Judy Nance, R.N.

Unusual Fatigue May Warn of Heart Trouble in Women

Researchers studied 515 women, average age of 66 years, who'd had a heart attack within the past 4 to 6 months. These women were asked about their warning signs before the attack.

Reports showed that 95 % of the women reported having new or different warning signs more than a month before their heart attack and these signs went away after the attack. The most common early warning signs reported by the women were:

  1. Unusual fatigue --- 70%
  2. Sleep disturbance---48%
  3. Shortness of breath---42%
  4. Indigestion---39%
  5. Anxiety---35%

Only 30% percent of the women reported chest discomfort before their heart attack. When they did, they described it as aching, tightness and pressure---not pain. The study also reported that 43% of the women reported no chest discomfort even during the heart attack. For those that did, the pain was felt between the shoulder blades and high in the chest. Other acute symptoms were shortness of breath (58%), weakness (55%), unusual fatigue (43%), cold sweats (39%), and dizziness (39%).

The study's bottom line: It's crucial for women and their doctors to be aware of women's unique signs and symptoms of heart disease especially those that occur in conjunction with well recognized heart disease risk factors such as a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Hopefully, this recognition will contribute to lowering the rate of sudden cardiac death among women and partially explain why heart disease remains the primary cause of death among women in the United States.

Information from "Mayo Clinic Women's Health Source”, April, 2004