Heart Attack Symptoms: The Signs in Women ARE Different than for Men | Health 101
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Health 101

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women can be Different

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States1. That is why it’s important to learn your family history, the warning signs of heart disease and symptoms of a heart attack.

Heart attack symptoms in women can differ from those in men. They can be subtler and sometimes confusing, so women often don’t know what to look for. In fact, women who consider themselves healthy often misdiagnose the symptoms of a heart attack because they don’t think it could happen to them.


By learning the heart attack signs unique to women, you can act quickly and save a life – maybe even your own.


What heart attack symptoms are more common in women?

The most common heart attack symptom in women is the same as in men – some type of pain or discomfort in the center of the chest. The pain or discomfort can be mild or strong. It can last more than a few minutes, or it can go away and come back.


While chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack, women are more likely than men to have heart attacks that do not show obvious symptoms. Women often brush off these symptoms as the flu, stress or simply feeling under the weather — which could put their lives in jeopardy.


Women need to be on the lookout for other, subtler signs and symptoms such as:


  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Indigestion


The more of these symptoms that you have, the more likely it is that you are having a heart attack. Also, if you’ve already had a heart attack, keep in mind that the signs you had last time may not be the same symptoms you experience in another heart attack.


What should you do if you have heart attack symptoms?

Because women don’t always recognize their symptoms as those of a heart attack, they tend to show up at the hospital after heart damage has occurred. So, if you think you may be having a heart attack or are experiencing any of the signs above, call 9-1-1 right away. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are overreacting or to wait and see.


Women are more likely than men to die after a heart attack, so getting to the hospital quickly is important. Do not drive yourself to the hospital, and do not let a friend drive you. You may need medical help on the way to the hospital, and ambulance workers are trained to treat you. This quick treatment can save your life and prevent permanent damage to your heart.


Can you reduce your risk of a heart attack?

Living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of heart disease and a heart attack. You should see your doctor regularly, take care of yourself and try these heart-healthy strategies:

  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Manage your stress
  • Limit alcohol
  • Follow your treatment plan
  • Manage other health conditions


If you have had a heart attack and want help to improve your health, members ages 21 and older can speak with a Gateway Health Case Manager about our Cardiac Program. Case Managers can teach you how to eat healthy, stay active and take medicines the right way. They can also help you recognize the warning signs of more trouble with your heart.

  1. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack/heart-attack-symptoms-in-women
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease/art-20046167
  3. https://www.womenshealth.gov/heart-disease-and-stroke/heart-disease/heart-attack-and-women/heart-attack-symptoms
  4. https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women/signs-and-symptoms-in-women/symptoms-of-a-heart-attack


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