Recognizing Heart Attacks in Women

May 7th 2016

More than 435,000 American women experience heart attacks each year; of those women, 267,000 die. Because the signs of a female heart attack are subtle and easily attributable to other conditions, they are easy to miss. Learning to spot the symptoms can help you identify a heart attack before it becomes fatal.


Pressure is one of the most common signs of a heart attack, but women may not feel the extreme chest pressure that is common for men. Instead, you may feel a squeezing feeling that comes and goes. The pressure may also feel as though your chest is uncomfortably full. Unlike male heart attacks, the pressure can be in the left, right or both sides of the chest. Some women experience sharp pressure in the stomach during an attack. Heart-attack pressure is usually intense, uncomfortable and difficult to ignore.

Shortness of Breath

For women, a heart attack often causes breathing troubles. You may feel unable to catch your breath even if you are not exerting yourself. If you feel a sudden shortness of breath that cannot be explained, it is important to see a doctor. Breathing problems also can make you feel lightheaded.

Pain Above the Waist

Female heart attacks often cause sharp pains in areas other than the chest. You may feel pain in your jaw, neck or back. Women experience arm pain in some cases. Any inexplicable sharp, strong pain above the waist should be reported to the doctor.

Flu-Like Symptoms

Some women do not experience any serious pain during a heart attack; instead, they are struck with symptoms of the stomach flu. Unusually strong fatigue, particularly in the chest area, can be a red flag. Women may also experience nausea, vomiting or cold sweats.

For women, the signs of a heart attack can be difficult to recognize. By monitoring your body carefully, you can identify unusual symptoms and see a doctor quickly.

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