Even when a heart attack is occurring, women are often slow to realize what’s happening. The reason? Heart attack symptoms in women are different than in men. To prevent a heart attack from sneaking up on you, there are little-known signs to be aware of and discuss with your doctor.
Female Heart Attack Symptoms
Women often misunderstand their heart attack symptoms because they sometimes differ from men. As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort, but women are more likely to experience the other common symptoms. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer, according to the American Heart Association. It is essential to know how heart attack symptoms differ in women. These symptoms include:
- Discomfort in your chest, commonly mistaken as heartburn
- Pain in the back, shoulders, arms, neck, throat or jaw
- Abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness and fatigue
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
Common Warning Signs of a Heart Attack in Women
Warning signs in women may be present before experiencing a heart attack. Because of this, it is extremely important to be aware of the early warning signs of a heart attack in women:
- Fatigue. More than 70% of women reported extreme fatigue in the month or months prior to their heart attacks. This was not just your run-of-the-mill tiredness, this was overwhelming fatigue that sidelined them from their usual schedules for a few days at a time.
- Sleeplessness or insomnia. Despite their fatigue, women who’ve had heart attacks remember not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep during the month before their heart attacks.
- Anxiety and stress. Stress has long been known to up the risk of heart attack. But what women report is the emotional experience; before their heart attacks they felt anxious, stressed and keyed up, noticeably more than usual.
- Indigestion or nausea. Stomach pain, intestinal cramps, nausea, and digestive disruptions are another sign reported by female heart attack patients. Become familiar with your digestive habits, and pay attention when anything seems strange.
- Shortness of breath. Difficulty breathing is a good reason to call 911, whether or not it indicates a heart attack. Remember that shortness of breath isn’t just associated with lung activity; it could also be a sign that your heart is calling for help.
- Flu-like symptoms. Clammy, sweaty skin along with feeling lightheaded and weak, can lead women to wonder if they have the flu when, in fact, they’re having a heart attack.
- Jaw, ear, neck or shoulder pain. While pain and numbness in the chest, shoulder, and arm is a common sign of a heart attack (at least, among men), women often don’t experience the pain this way. Instead, many women say they felt pain and a sensation of tightness running along their jaw and down the neck, and sometimes up to the ear, as well. The pain may extend down to the shoulder and arm – particularly on the left side – or it may feel like a backache or a pulled muscle in the neck and back.
Learn More About Your Heart Health
Have you ever wondered how healthy your heart is? This quick heart health risk assessment can compare your actual age to your heart’s biological age, as well as calculate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.