A man clutches his chest and sweat pours from every pore in his face. He then falls to the floor.
That is the common image that comes to mind of a man suffering a heart attack.
But if it is a woman, the symptoms can be very different, said Dr. Jean Pringle, M.D., whose practice is located at Great Bend Internists. GBI is part of the St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center family.
"Cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States," Dr. Pringle said. "Women and their families need to familiarize themselves with the typical and atypical symptoms of a heart attack and take action."
These symptoms can include:
• Chest pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing, as if there is a ton of weight bearing down;
• Unusual upper body pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, shoulder, neck, jaw or upper part of the stomach;
• Breaking out in a cold sweat;
• Light-headedness or sudden dizziness;
• Unusual fatigue; or
• Shortness of breath.
"If a woman experiences any one of these symptoms, she shouldn’t make excuses for them," Dr. Pringle said. "She should call for help and be checked by her physician.
"In addition," she continued, "a heart attack is caused by a ruptured clot in the vessel, which then stops blood flow to the heart muscle. This damages the muscle so it doesn’t work as well, which leads to heart failure. It is best to treat early to stop the clot and preserve the muscle."
Since February is American Heart Month, Dr. Pringle and other St. Rose health-care providers are using the opportunity to share information with the public and their patients.
Patients are receiving special educational materials this month when they visit their St. Rose doctors at Great Bend Internists, Central Kansas Women’s Health Center and St. Joseph Family Medicine. Each of these clinics employs health-care providers that can treat and help prevent heart disease, said Meredith Joiner, R.N. and executive director of physician enterprise.
"We want to make women aware of the signs of a heart attack," Joiner said. "The signs can be as subtle as a pain in the jaw or arm, and maybe just general fatigue.
"Too many times, I have seen patients that were glad they were checked out for ‘a little heartburn’ that was actually a cardiac event," she added. "You can never be too cautious."
St. Rose also is planning two heart-related events that are open to the public. Charise Oelger, physician assistant at St. Joseph Family Medicine, will lead a discussion on exercise tips.
Dr. Gerry Stavens, Wichita cardiologist who sees patients at the St. Rose Specialty Clinic, will lead a session on women’s heart health on Feb. 17 in the St. Dominic Room at St. Rose.
More details on these events will be announced soon.
In addition, St. Rose associates will be asked to wear red on Friday, Feb. 3, in observance of National Go Red For Women Day. The American Heart Association is sponsoring this effort to show support for making women aware of heart disease.
"We also want to educate sons, husbands, fathers and brothers," Joiner said. "Many times they can be the ones to encourage the women in their lives to seek the prompt attention they need."