American Heart Month: How Heart Attack Signs for Women Differ from Men

Image via AHA.
Image via AHA

Sure, most of us have seen a heart attack happen in a TV show or movie — which consists of a person clutching onto their chest and usually falling to the ground with pain in their right arm.

While we may think we know the telltale signs of a heart attack, we really only know the most common signs for a man.

Many times, a woman can be experiencing a heart attack and not be aware of it since the severity of the signs are much less immediately debilitating (but still extremely life threatening). And that is exactly why we should spread the word to women everywhere about the signs of something they could potentially experience in their lifetime.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, [but] women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu, or normal aging.”

Here are a list of signs sourced directly from the AHA website:
  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
  5. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience: shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

The fact of the matter is that heart attacks in women are often more subtle than the usual sign of chest pain — although that could be a symptom. Some women are actually surprised that they are having a heart attack, chalking what they’re experiencing up to the flu. It’s most important to note that many women do not feel chest pain and can exclusively feel the pain in their back. If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately and get to a hospital right away.


For more information, please visit the AHA website.

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