6 Symptoms of Heart Attack That Women Experience Differently Than Men–#2 You May Not Expect

July 11, 2020 Updated: July 11, 2020

While some of the symptoms of heart attack are shared by both sexes, there are others that are specific to women in particular. Here, we’ll look at six of the symptoms ladies need to pay special attention to.

By recognizing the symptoms quickly and calling for an ambulance, you stand a better chance of receiving effective treatment and survival. Even though we tend to think of older men as being at higher risk for heart disease and heart attack, the American Heart Association reports that heart attacks are still the number one killer of women in the United States.

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Myocardial Infarction or Heart Attack. (Blausen Medical Communications, Inc./CC BY 3.0)

In terms of the symptoms, the AHA explained: “As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.” The big difference is that this is the primary symptom for men, whereas women often have other warning signs that go unnoticed.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg of the Center for Women’s Health at NYU shared one of the symptomatic differences: “Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure.”

Because of the fact that women might not see themselves as being “high risk,” it’s especially important to pay attention to certain lesser-known symptoms. Here are a few things to watch out for:

1. Pain in the Back, Neck, Jaw, or Arms

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We usually imagine the pains leading up to a heart attack as located in the left arm or chest; it’s common for women to experience pain in other areas as a warning sign. The back, neck, jaw, and arms might seem like unusual places for a person to feel pain, but this can be a precursor for more serious cardiac distress.

If you’re feeling acute or persistent pain in these areas, consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

2. Acute Stomach Pain

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Once again, most people wouldn’t naturally think stomach pain as being linked to heart problems, but this is a possible symptom that women should pay attention to.

This pain could be accompanied by nausea and be mistaken as a stomach bug or as part of having the flu or even suffering from acid reflux.

3. Cold Sweats

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It’s normal to sweat when exposed to hot temperatures or when you’ve been engaged in vigorous exercise. However, if you’re sweating for no particular reason, it could be the sign of something more serious. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago showed a conclusive link between unmotivated sweating and heart attack.

The study also noted that the faster women sought help when experiencing such symptoms, the better the outcome.

4. Shortness of Breath and Dizziness

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Here too, it’s important to distinguish between naturally induced shortness of breath caused by cardiovascular activity like running or cycling and a more serious inability to catch your breath.

Dr. Goldberg explained to the AHA that women who are experiencing the first stages of a heart attack could feel “as though you ran a marathon, but you haven’t made a move.”

5. Increased Fatigue

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With the demands of motherhood and a career, it’s no wonder that many women experience fatigue and exhaustion in their daily lives. However, if women are experiencing crippling dizziness and lightheadedness normally associated with tiredness, they should check and be sure it isn’t related to heart trouble.

6. Pressure and Pain in the Chest

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As in other groups, pressure and pain in the chest remain a possible symptom for women. Dr. Goldberg says this could manifest as a feeling of being squeezed too tightly or even being tightly bound by a rope.

Regardless of the symptoms you may be experiencing, it’s important to take them seriously. AHA notes that women aren’t at lower risk for heart attack than men; rather, they tend to ignore warning signs in order to make sure they can continue taking care of others.

“They do this because they are scared and because they put their families first,” Dr. Goldberg explained. “There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack.” Should these symptoms appear, seek help from a trusted medical expert.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.