Heart Attack Symptoms in Women and Men

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The major signs and symptoms of a heart attack are different for women than men. In a 2016 post, Heart Attack Symptoms in Women, I explain that women are much more likely than men to not realize they are having a heart attack. That’s because women having heart attacks often do NOT experience huge chest pain. Instead, a heart attack in women can feel like: heartburn, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, nausea, and back &/or jaw pain.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, and early treatment is crucial. Often women do not seek immediate treatment because their symptoms don’t feel urgent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the five major symptoms of a heart attack as:

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath
    (And if you are a woman: if you have unusual or unexplained tiredness AND nausea or vomiting.)

The CDC has a separate page, Women and Heart Disease, where you can learn more about heart disease and women.

The following graphic from the CDC illustrates the differences in how heart attacks present in women and men. It’s a good guide for everyone to understand that a heart attack doesn’t only feel like crushing chest or radiating arm pain.

High cholesterol increases risk of heart disease and heart attack. Read my post What’s Your Heart Disease Risk? for more information.


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