Men and women don’t experience the same heart attack symptoms. Because women’s symptoms are more subtle, being familiar with them could save a life.
Quickly recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack can be the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, most people think that heart attack symptoms such as sudden pain in the chest, shortness of breath, and inability to walk and stand are the only heart attack symptoms.
In reality, these well-known symptoms usually only occur in men. Women’s heart attack symptoms tend to be much more subtle, and they’re far less known. Knowing what to watch out for can help you act quickly if a heart attack does strike.
Heart Attacks and Women
Although heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the US, women often chalk up their heart attack symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu, or even just aging. This is largely because women are more likely than men to have a “silent” heart attack or to display unusual or ambiguous symptoms. Perhaps as a result, women are less likely to survive their first heart attack than men.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Women
Heart attack symptoms in women can be difficult to identify because they often seem like exaggerated versions of more common experiences. Understanding how to distinguish between these regular experiences and potential symptoms can be difficult, but here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Unusual fatigue. If you find yourself feeling fatigued under unusual circumstances, that might indicate a heart attack. Some of these circumstances are:
- Feeling excessively tired following simple activities like making the bed, shopping, or even walking to the bathroom;
- Experiencing fatigue or a “heavy” chest without exerting yourself;
- Feeling suddenly worn out after your normal exercise routine.
Another point of concern is if you experience sleep disturbances despite feeling exceptionally tired.
- Shortness of breath and/or sweating. Experiencing these symptoms without exertion or cause for stress can be a symptom of a heart attack. Some women describe the symptom as feeling as though they have just run a marathon without having made a single move.
- Pain in your upper body, particularly in the neck, jaw, arms, and back. If the origin of this pain is hard to pinpoint, it might indicate a heart condition. The pain can sometimes feel very sudden and might even wake you up in the middle of the night. For women, a heart attack can cause pain in either arm — not just in the left arm, as is the case for many men.
Other symptoms to watch out for include:
- A feeling of fullness, indigestion, or choking (this may also feel like heartburn);
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Light-headedness, dizziness, extreme weakness, or anxiety;
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
The sooner you seek medical help, the better your chance of surviving or preventing a heart attack. If you experience any of the described symptoms, write them down and see a doctor as soon as possible.
You should call 911 immediately if you experience any of the symptoms described above along with chest pain or discomfort, especially if the symptoms last more than five minutes.
If you believe that you might be experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, or if you simply want to learn more about your personal risk for heart attack, you should schedule an appointment at Tri-City Cardiology. We are here to help you understand your risk of heart attack and to help you treat your condition if you begin experiencing symptoms of one.