Heart Attack Symptoms in Women - dummies

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

By Sarah Densmore

Heart attacks don’t discriminate. Although more men than women have heart attacks, women are more likely to die from them. In addition, over half the women who’ve died from a heart attack had no symptoms of heart problems before the attack.

The classic heart attack symptom most people have heard of is crushing pain in the chest. While it’s true that chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom for both men and women, when a woman is in the throes of a heart attack, she’s more likely than a man to have either less intense chest pain or no pain.

In addition to chest pain differences among the genders, there are several other heart attack symptoms that doctors have discovered are more prevalent in women than men.

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: A study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that nearly 40 percent of female heart attack victims were dizzy or lightheaded at the time of their heart attack.

  • Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired in the weeks and days leading up to a heart attack is another common symptom for women. As a matter of fact, fatigue was the most reported symptom in the NIH study. Seventy percent of women said their fatigue was severe.

If you’ve been experiencing severe fatigue for several weeks and you can’t chalk it up to a schedule or lifestyle change, talk with your doctor. It could be an early heart attack warning sign.

  • Nausea or vomiting: Being nauseous or actually vomiting during a heart attack is also prevalent in women. Additionally, NIH reported that nearly 40 percent of women said they had indigestion prior to the attack.

  • Shortness of breath: Women can have trouble breathing whether or not they have chest pain. According to the NIH study, more than 40 percent of women experienced shortness of breath before their heart attack and nearly 60 percent had trouble breathing during the attack.

  • Sleep disturbances: Tossing and turning or not being able to sleep through the night is another symptom women frequently report. Almost half of the women in the NIH study said they had severe sleep problems during the days immediately before heart attack.

  • Sweating: Women who are having a heart attack may suddenly break out in a profuse sweat. Nearly 40 percent of the women in the NIH study reported this symptom.

  • Torso discomfort: Although pain radiating from the chest down the left arm is a well-known heart attack symptom, women tend to experience a more subtle achiness in the neck, shoulder, upper back, or abdomen.

No matter how subtle your symptoms, don’t ignore them. Seek help. Women often put off calling their doctor or going to the emergency room because they aren’t experiencing the crushing chest pain common in men. Remember, the longer you delay medical treatment, the greater the damage to your heart.