warning signs

  1. How to know when you're having a heart attack

    You might think heart attacks don't discriminate, but that's not actually true. They do discriminate -- and it's a form of discrimination that's killing women.

    Believe it or not, women are actually more likely to die and more likely to die young as a result of a heart attack, and it's because they don't always experience the classic heart attack warning signs.

    You know the big one: chest pain. That sudden pain is a direct and urgent message from the body that something's wrong -- and you need to get to the hospital.

    But according to a study of more than 1.4 million heart patients tracked for up to 12 years, only 58 percent of women experience chest pain during a heart attack. Compare that to 70 percent of men who feel chest pain, and it's not hard to see why women are 40 percent more likely to die as a result.

    They simply never had a fair chance in the first place.

    Overall, the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that 10.3 percent of men who experience heart attacks die as a result of them, versus 14.6 percent of women -- with the biggest increase in risk among younger women, especially those 55 years old or younger.

    Because they feel just about anything other than chest pain, these women are more likely to blame their symptoms on just about anything else: the flu, nerve or muscle pain, simple stress or something else entirely.

    So instead of getting help, they pop a few painkillers or go lay down for a little while.

    And some of them never get back up.

    Don't let this happen to you or your loved ones. Make it your mission to get to know the rest of the heart attack warning signs, which include:

    • Pain or a numb sensation in other parts of the body -- including the jaw, arms, stomach or back;
    • Sudden fatigue;
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
    • Dizziness;
    • Nausea, vomiting and/or stomachache;
    • Anxiety;
    • Lightheadedness; and
    • A cold sweat.

    Don't wait to see if these symptoms pass. Get help -- especially if you're younger and especially if you're thinking "I couldn't possibly be having a heart attack."

    That's the kind of attitude that's clearly getting people killed.

    For more on heart protection, keep reading.

  2. Aging signs -- or warning signs?

    Millions of seniors battle the three S's in their later years: the stoop, the shakes, and the shuffle. And most docs will respond with their own S: the shrug as they tell you it's just part of getting older.


    Just because you're getting older doesn't mean you have to sit back and tolerate a slow descent into feebleness -- and now, a new study finds that the three S's aren't signs of aging.

    They're warning signs of something much more serious.

    Researchers have been tracking some 1,100 aging priests and nuns since 1994, examining them for the "typical" signs of aging -- like the three S's -- while they're alive, and then studying their brains after death.

    In autopsies of 418 of the volunteers who lived to an average age of 88, the researchers found a surprising number of microscopic brain lesions -- including lesions in 30 percent of the patients who had never suffered a stroke or brain disease.

    Those who had the most trouble walking in their final years often had multiple lesions, and two-thirds of the patients overall had at least one blocked blood vessel in the brain -- leading researchers to conclude that these blockages may be the real cause of the three S's.

    The only problem here is that they're so small they can't be spotted in a living brain with any current technology -- only under a microscope during an autopsy.

    If it's a warning, it's a real quiet one -- and if you think spotting these lesions is hard, treating them can be downright devastating: In many cases, the choice comes down to doing nothing, or undergoing a risky brain surgery that no senior wants to face.

    Fortunately, emerging research has found that fatty acids can work wonders when it comes to brain injuries, especially the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil.

    That's no surprise, since more than half of your brain is fat, and one of the main fats in your brain is DHA.

    Some studies have shown that this essential fatty acid can help improve patients who suffer from the types of brain lesions associated with cognitive decline, while other recent studies have found that DHA may help the brain to recover from traumatic injuries.

    It's too early to say whether fatty acid supplements can prevent or heal the types of brain lesions uncovered by the new study -- but why wait? The omega-3s can help your brain, heart, eyes, and more -- and unless you've got a pretty steady fatty fish habit, you should be taking this stuff anyway.

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