The current statistics on heart disease are as sobering as ever. Consider:
_ Heart disease ranks as the number one cause of death in the US.
_ Almost one-third of women have some form of heart disease, and most don't realize it.
_ Half of the men who die suddenly from heart disease had no prior symptoms.
Heart attack symptoms aren't unisex. "What we think of as characteristic heart attack pain _ like an elephant sitting on your chest _ is much more likely to occur in men than in women," says Dr. Marianne Legato, director of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University. In fact, 43 percent of women having a coronary don't experience any chest discomfort at all.
Women also wait longer to go to the ER than men do (their top reason for hesitating: They don't want to bother anyone). But that can be fatal: Your odds of surviving improve by 23 percent if you get treatment within 3 hours and 50 percent within 1 hour.
Don't be a cardiac cautionary tale. If you have any of these warning signs, act fast. As Legato says: "It's better to be embarrassed than dead."
_ FATIGUE: In the weeks before an attack, 71 percent of women have flulike symptoms. Days before, you may feel too tired to lift your laptop.
_ NON-CHEST PAIN: Rather than an explosion in your chest, you may feel less-severe pain in your upper back, shoulders, neck or jaw.
_ SWEATING: You may find yourself suddenly drenched in perspiration for no apparent reason, and your face may be pale or ashen.
_ NAUSEA OR DIZZINESS: During an attack, women often vomit or feel like they're going to pass out.
_ BREATHLESSNESS: Almost 58 percent of women report panting or inability to carry on a conversation.
_ SLEEPLESSNESS: In the month before a coronary, nearly half of women have trouble sleeping.
_ ANXIETY: "Many women experience a sense of impending doom or fear before a heart attack," says Legato. "That's your body telling you to pay attention. Trust those instincts."
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