Viral tweets warn women how their heart attacks can be different

By Ashley Welch

/ CBS News

Manage your heart disease risk factors

A woman's story of surviving a heart attack has gone viral and serves as a good reminder than men and women can experience heart attacks very differently. Many women are unaware of their risk, and the symptoms they experience aren't always what you might expect from a heart attack.

Twitter user @geewheezie posted a thread about her heart attack and why she initially missed the symptoms.

"I want to warn women our heart attacks feel different," she wrote. "Last Sunday I had a heart attack. I had a 95% block in my left anterior descending artery. I'm alive because I called 911. I never had chest pain. It wasn't what you read in pamphlets. I had it off & on for weeks."

I want to warn women our heart attacks feel different. Last Sunday I had a heart attack. I had a 95% block in my left anterior descending artery. I’m alive because I called 911. I never had chest pain. It wasn’t what you read in pamphlets. I had it off & on for weeks.

— gwheezie (@geewheezie) December 9, 2018

As of Wednesday, the tweet has been retweeted almost 37,000 times and liked by more than 73,000 people.

The woman, who has said she does not want to be identified but later tweeted she is a nurse and an older woman, goes on to describe her symptoms.

"The pain ran across my upper back, shoulder blades & equally down both arms," she wrote. "It felt like burning & aching. I actually thought it was muscle strain. It wasn't until I broke into drenching sweat & started vomiting that I called 911."

The pain ran across my upper back, shoulder blades & equally down both arms. It felt like burning & aching. I actually thought it was muscle strain. It wasn’t until I broke into drenching sweat & started vomiting that I called 911.

— gwheezie (@geewheezie) December 9, 2018

According to her tweets, @geewheezie thought she had strained some muscles while helping a neighbor clean out her barn.

"I almost died because I didn't call it chest pain," she wrote. "I thought I strained some muscles. I took Motrin & put a warm pack on my shoulders, I almost died because I didn't call it chest pain."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 790,000 Americans have a heart attack every year. That amounts to someone having a heart attack in the United States every 40 seconds. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. 610,000 people each year.

The American Heart Association reports cardiovascular disease impacts about 44 million women in the U.S., resulting in about 300,00 deaths. However, many women are unaware of the danger.

A survey released earlier this year revealed less than half of women are aware of their heart disease risk. The survey, conducted by CVS Health, found about 60 percent of women don't know critical components of their cardiac health, like their cholesterol numbers, blood sugar levels or body-mass index.

"You need to be armed with that information and then have your doctor tell you what your risk is of cardiovascular disease and work with you on managing your risk factors," CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula, who is a cardiologist at Northwell Health, told "CBS This Morning" when the survey came out in February.

Another issue is that women are not aware of the symptoms of a heart attack, which can be different from what men experience.

According to the AHA, while the most common heart attack symptom for both sexes is chest pain or discomfort, women may be more likely to experience other symptoms, including:

This is a far cry from what is often depicted in movies — a man gasping, clutching his chest and falling to the ground.

@geewheezie said she was lucky — she was taken to the hospital and had four stents placed an hour after she got to the emergency room.

"That was Sunday. I was discharged thurs & at my daughters house & back to tweeting," she wrote.

I was lucky, I had no idea what hospital to go to, the female medics who picked me up took me to a hospital that does cardiac caths, i had 4 stents placed an hour after I got to the er. That was Sunday. I was discharged thurs & at my daughters house & back to tweeting.

— gwheezie (@geewheezie) December 9, 2018

First published on December 12, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ashley Welch

Ashley Welch covers health and wellness for CBSNews.com

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