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Can this abdominal pain also be a sign of a heart attack?

Can this abdominal pain also be a sign of a heart attack?


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Recognize non-specific symptoms of a heart attack

Heart attack is still the leading cause of death in Germany. However, many heart attack deaths can be avoided if the person gets treatment in good time. For this it is very important that the symptoms are interpreted correctly, because a violent chest pain does not always indicate a seizure. A cardiology chief explains about less known symptoms that may indicate an acute heart attack.

"For both women and men: if you delay too long with a heart attack or acute chest pain with emergency call 112, you risk your life," warns the German Heart Foundation. Any delay increases the risk of sudden cardiac fibrillation. The result: the affected people pass out and a few minutes later the sudden cardiac death occurs. A long period of hesitation could also irreparably destroy a larger part of the heart muscle. In this case, the patients develop an incurable heart failure. “Every minute counts in a heart attack,” emphasizes the Heart Foundation.

Older women hesitate the longest with the emergency call

According to the "MEDEA study" by the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK), women over 65 years in particular are particularly reluctant to make an emergency call. In this age group, an average of four and a half hours elapse between the infarction and treatment in the emergency room. It's three and a half hours for men over 65, three hours for younger men, and two and a half for women under 65.


Why do older people hesitate longer to call 911?

Heart attack symptoms are often non-specific in older people, especially women. "Many heart attack deaths in women could be avoided if the heart attack symptoms were interpreted correctly - and thus valuable time was saved," emphasizes Professor Dr. med. Christiane Tiefenbacher, head of cardiology at Marien-Hospital Wesel, in a press release. In particular, the sometimes lacking severe chest pain often distracts from the fact that it is a heart attack. To make matters worse, older women often live alone and in an emergency no one calls the ambulance for them.

Recognize non-specific symptoms of a heart attack

"The absence of chest pain is an age effect that can also be found in men," reports the heart specialist. The older the heart attack sufferers are, the more likely it is that chest pain will not occur. Instead, the elderly often report:

  • Abdominal pain,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Excessive (profuse) sweating,
  • Back pain,
  • Shortness of breath,
  • Fatigue.

Heart attack symptoms are often interpreted as an upset stomach

As the professor reports, the symptoms become less intensive with increasing age. Severe pain takes a back seat, instead unspecific complaints such as abdominal pain and nausea come to the fore. "These are often misinterpreted by the women concerned as harmless stomach upset," warns Dr. Tiefenbacher. The specialist advises older people to call the emergency services if they experience these symptoms or if they suspect a heart attack. In addition, there is also the possibility of being connected to a house emergency call system, which is offered, for example, by the Malteser Hilfsdienst, the Johannitern, the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund or the German Red Cross.

Risk factors for heart attack

"In addition to smoking, diabetes, fat metabolism disorders, high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise and stress are among the risk factors for a heart attack," writes the German Heart Foundation. In women, the risk of an infarction increases around ten years after menopause, since the coronary arteries are relatively well protected by the sex hormone estrogen until menopause.

Take special care with coronary artery disease

According to the heart expert, so-called coronary heart disease (CAD) almost always precedes a heart attack. In the CAD, the coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood narrow. Fat and lime deposits increasingly block the vessels until they close. "The best protection against a heart attack is and remains a healthy lifestyle," recommends the chief doctor. In addition, older people should have their heart checked regularly and take the scheduled checkups. If a CHD is recognized and treated early, a heart attack can be prevented in many cases. (vb)

Author and source information


Video: Case presentations: chest pain post-prandial abdominal pain (June 2022).