Think about: A heart attack. Everyone knows that crushing chest pain is a hallmark of a heart attack. But that shouldn't be the only symptom on your radar. Signs can be more subtle in women than in men, says Heather Rosen, MD, medical director of UPMC Urgent Care in North Huntingdon, Penn. As a result, young women tend to brush off early symptoms and avoid seeking help, sometimes mistaking the pain of a heart attack for indigestion or acid reflux. Watch out for uncomfortable pressure in your chest (not necessarily in the middle—and not everyone experiences this), as well as non-chest pain symptoms, such as discomfort in one or both arms, nausea or dizziness, which are more common in women, per a study in JAMA Internal Medicine. Cold sweats, shortness of breath, and pain in the back, neck, shoulder, or jaw are other possible symptoms. 

What to do: Anytime you suspect a heart attack, "err on the side of caution and call 911," advises Dr. Rosen. Once the ambulance arrives, the paramedics can perform an EKG and give you aspirin or another treatment en route to the hospital. Don't go to urgent care or your family doctor; they won't be able to run the necessary tests to evaluate your heart. 

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Review links atrial fibrillation to increased risk for heart and kidney problems, not just stroke

HealthDay News
September 06, 2016

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Atrial fibrillation, a common type of heart rhythm disorder, is associated with a wider range of conditions than previously believed, researchers report.

The findings add "to the growing literature on the association between atrial fibrillation and cardiovascular outcomes beyond stroke," researchers at the University of Oxford in England and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote.

The team reviewed 104 studies involving more than 9 million people, including nearly 590,000 people with atrial fibrillation. They concluded that the heart rhythm disorder was also associated with heart disease, heart failure, kidney disease, sudden cardiac death and death from all causes.

The study did not prove atrial fibrillation caused these additional health risks, just that there was an association.

Risk for heart failure was the most significant of these associations, rising fivefold for people with atrial fibrillation, the study authors said. But atrial fibrillation was also linked with a twofold increased risk of heart-related death and a 2.3-fold increased risk of stroke.

The findings were published Sept. 6 in the journal BMJ.

Besides stroke, atrial fibrillation was already tied to an increased risk of death, higher medical costs and lower quality of life, the study authors said.

Doctors need to take steps to reduce the risk of these newly identified health risks, along with stroke, in patients with atrial fibrillation, the researchers added.

Atrial fibrillation—sometimes called AFib—is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can cause blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. The American Heart Association estimates that at least 2.7 million Americans are living with the heart condition.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on atrial fibrillation.