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Yolanda Miranda, mother of Mexican singer Thalia, became part of a disturbing trend among Latino women when she died unexpectedly of a heart attack last week.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Latinas in the United States, but because many women do not display what are considered typical symptoms like chest pain, which is more common in men, they often go undiagnosed until it is too late.
Miranda had complained of a debilitating headache the night before her death, which occurred in the early morning on May 27, but the 76-year-old was apparently unaware that such a symptom can be connected to an impending heart attack. Her death came just two weeks before the expected birth of her famous daughter’s second child and a day before the wedding day of another daughter, Ernestina Sodi.
“Women’s symptoms can be much more subtle and challenging to diagnose,” said David A. Meyerson, cardiologist at Johns Hopkins University and a spokesman for the American Heart Association and its campaign Go Red Por Tu Corazón, which is designed to create heart disease awareness among Hispanic women.
Meyerson said shortness of breath, a feeling of weakness and unusual fatigue are some of the more common symptoms in women having heart attacks. Other symptoms include nausea, dizziness, lower chest discomfort, upper abdominal pressure or discomfort that felt like indigestion and back pain.
Headaches are not considered a common complaint of female heart attack sufferers but Meyerson said such a symptom could be a sign of a surge in high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack.
According to a study of women's early heart attack signs published in American Heart Association’s publication Circulation, women are more likely to be "mistakenly diagnosed and discharged from emergency departments."
Because of that, Meyerson said the AHA are trying to educate not just the public but also emergency room physicians and other health care workers on the signs of female heart attacks.
“This is important because in many hospitals, we now have the ability to turn off a heart attack if a person gets to the emergency room quickly enough and if it’s diagnosed,” he said. “So not only can we save lives, we can often restore people to the same level of function before the event.”
Nancy Averett is a freelance writer based in Ohio.