Each year in the United States, an estimated 38,000 women younger than 50 have a heart attack. Get to know the symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
How Heart Attacks Happen
A buildup of fatty deposits, called plaque, in the coronary arteries triggers most heart attacks. When plaque thickens and hardens, it can cause atherosclerosis, a form of heart disease, which can block the flow of blood, and thus oxygen, to the heart muscle and lead to a heart attack. Risk factors include a family history, elevated blood pressure or cholesterol or both, obesity, smoking, high stress levels and a sedentary lifestyle—although people without any predisposition can have heart attacks. Less common causes include a blood clot and a blood-vessel tear in the heart (known as a spontaneous coronary artery dissection), a rare condition most prevalent in those ages 30 to 50.
Feeling Chest Pain?
Your ticker isn’t the only source of problems in your torso. These symptoms might signal ailments other than heart disease—but still mean you should see a doctor, stat!
If you have: Localized pain that gets worse when you inhale, press the spot, bend or twist
It might be: A cracked rib
If you have: Tenderness that worsens when you cough, stretch or touch the area
It might be: A pulled or torn muscle
If you have: Coughing, wheezing and tightness shortly after you start exercising
It might be: Exercise-induced asthma
If you have: Sharp pain when you inhale and exhale, cough, sneeze or move, along with shortness of breath
It might be: Pleurisy, an inflammation of the membranes that line the chest wall and surround the lungs
If you have: Pain where the breastbone meets the ribs that worsens when you breathe deeply or cough
It might be: Costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone