pay bill Find Doctor

Heart attack symptoms can be different for women


By Katherine Crocker
Marketing Coordinator, MedWest Haywood

Lisa Gaines was only 50 when she experienced what she thought was a burning sensation; little did she know, that burning sensation was a heart attack.

Gaines is one of thousands of women who have survived a heart attack. She will be sharing her story at the Go Red for Women event in the MedWest Haywood Health & Fitness Center gym at noon on Friday Feb. 7, followed by an educational seminar with Dr. David Peterson at 5 p.m.

Gaines was spending the day normally — taking her dogs for a walk and doing her daily house chores — when she noticed the burning sensation. It was followed by a bout of nausea.

“After we ate lunch I started feeling a burning sensation in my chest, right in the middle and it felt like I had swallowed Icy Hot. I was not that concerned about it until I started throwing up," Gaines said.

Gaines began vomiting repeatedly so she called 911. Once the ambulance came, she felt a little better and began to feel embarrassed about calling. However, the paramedics confirmed it was a heart attack.

"I couldn’t believe it," Gaines said. "Not only was I having a heart attack, I was having a severe heart attack and needed to be airlifted.”

Gaines' case is not uncommon. According to the American Heart Association not all heart attacks are sudden and intense. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Some symptoms of a heart attack include chest discomfort like pressure or a squeezing, discomfort in the upper body in the arms the back, the neck and the jaw or stomach, shortness of breath and breaking into a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

The most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain, according to the American Heart Association.

Lisa is recovering with the help of the cardiac rehabilitation services offered at MedWest Haywood.

“I had no energy when I started,” said Gaines, who is attending a 12-week, 36-session program. “I have only been to 6 sessions and I already feel like I’m alive again,” she said.

Vickie Wright, RN, BSN, who is a nurse team leader in the cardiac rehab program at MedWest Haywood, said the primary goal of the program is to help each individual achieve a personal level of physical, psychological, vocational and social health.

“We offer a multidisciplinary approach designed to help participants learn to modify and control risk factors and achieve and maintain optimal health through physical exercise and education,” said Wright.

The cardiac rehab program is housed in the MedWest Haywood Health & Fitness Center, a 54,000 square foot facility that also is home to an outpatient rehabilitation center as well as a fully-functioning fitness center replete with a pool, walking track, racquetball courts, locker rooms with saunas, among other amenities such as massage therapy and a full array of classes.

Scotty Setser, director of the Health & Fitness Center, said that having the center directly linked to programs such as cardiac rehabilitation is a benefit to the community.

“Our center is unique in that, because of our strong ties with the medical community and because we are part of a medical center, we have the ability to help our members both manage and prevent disease,” said Setser.

MedWest Haywood is celebrating heart month throughout February, with activities planned to educate Haywood County about the importance of heart health. To learn more visit

Back to News Listing