Ask the Expert: Laila Payvandi, MD, UnityPoint Health - Cardiology

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Ask the Expert: Laila Payvandi, MD, UnityPoint Health - Cardiology - What are Heart Attack Symptoms for Women?

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Laila ayvandi, MD
When it comes to heart attacks, men and women may experience many of the same classic symptoms.
“Some of the common symptoms for a heart attack include crushing chest pain, shortness of breath and abnormal heart rhythms,” said Laila Payvandi, MD, UnityPoint Health – Cardiology. “A patient may also describe an impending sense of doom or feeling like something is sitting on his or her chest.”

Research and education have led to the discovery, however, that women may have different heart attack symptoms than men.


“Depending on which artery is affected, some women may present with isolated symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, or upper back pain,” said Dr. Payvandi. “Women, as well as diabetic patients, do not necessarily experience the classic symptoms of a heart attack. This is why healthcare providers should always remain vigilant when diagnosing and treating these patient populations.”

More awareness around heart disease has prompted many individuals to be proactive in managing their heart disease risk factors. Dr. Payvandi encourages women in particular to be advocates for their health. “Women sometimes deprioritize their own health issues, often due to a heavy burden of professional and/or family responsibilities,” said Dr. Payvandi. “I encourage all women to make small, sustainable changes in their daily lives in order to improve overall health. It can be as simple as keeping a food journal, waking up 15 minutes early to exercise or wearing a Fitbit to track daily physical activity.”

Individuals interested in knowing more about their heart health are encouraged to talk with their primary care provider or self-refer to a cardiologist.

“When something does not feel right, no one knows your body as well as you do,” said Dr. Payvandi. “It is important to listen to your body and get a medical evaluation.”