(NaturalNews) The CDC reports that approximately 800,000 first time heart attacks occur annually. Ignoring iatrogenic deaths (death by medicine), heart disease is still the number one killer for both men and women.
However, the common perception of chest pain or discomfort as a signal that a heart attack is occurring are less than one normally thinks, especially among younger women under 45.
A study led by Dr. John Canto at the Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Florida, used medical records in a national database of heart attack patients from 1994 to 2006, covering around 1.1 million people treated at close to 2,000 hospitals.
Dr. Canto and his team reported their study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on February 21, 2012.
What was revealed is that chest pain is not necessarily the only indication of a heart attack. Dr. Canto used the term "atypical symptoms" to describe possible indications of a heart attack other than chest pain.
Atypical symptoms of a heart attack include numbness, unprovoked arm, jaw or back pain, sudden shortness of breath, weakness or fatigue, or unusual feelings of indigestion or nausea.
People who have chest pains normally seek medical attention immediately. Some are released quickly after observation proving their pains were pulmonary (lung related), or muscular and brought on by anxiety, stress or fatigue, but not actual heart attacks.
Those who have an actual heart attack without the popularized symptoms of chest pain or discomfort usually do not seek medical attention early enough, leading to a higher incidence of death among first time heart attack victims, according to the Canto report.
Women at higher risk than men for hidden heart attacks
The incidents of atypical symptom heart attacks were greater among younger women than men. However, as their ages advanced to 55 and beyond, the gender differences decreased markedly. Older men and women have similar mortality rates after age 55.
Dr. Philip Sarel cautions women of pre-menopause age to be aware of any unusual physical symptoms during the middle of their menstrual cycle, when an egg is released.
At that time, their blood estrogen drops, which has the possibility of triggering a heart attack with atypical symptoms or onset of period. Dr. Sarel claims that if atypical or typical symptoms occur at the onset of a woman's period, she should have her heart health checked.
Hot flashes during menopause increase adrenalin flow, which tends to constrict arteries and possibly lead to an actual heart attack. Dr. Sarel also advises older women in their sixties who have typical or atypical symptoms during hot flashes to get checked with an electrocardiogram immediately.