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Symptoms Women Heart Attack

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Gender Differences In The Management Of Cvd

Mayo Clinic Minute: Women’s heart attack symptoms vary

Underestimation of cardiovascular risk in women results in delayed or even missed diagnoses of CVD. The use of investigations to detect severe coronary stenosis is often futile, as women have a lower prevalence of obstructive CAD but have greater symptom burden and functional impairment . The management of stable angina in both sexes remains similar, and includes lifestyle modifications, anti-anginal medications and pharmacological secondary prevention, revascularisation and rehabilitation.

Preventing Heart Attacks In Women

In addition to knowing symptoms of heart attacks that might be less known, you can also be an advocate for your health by maintaining a healthy heart.

Some tips for staying heart healthy include:

  • Maintain a healthy diet, including healthy fats rather than trans fats
  • Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke
  • Stay at a weight thatâs healthy for your body
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain your dental health
  • Know your heart rate and blood pressure, and get them to a healthy level if they arenât currently
  • Take the appropriate medications if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
  • Notify your healthcare providers if you have any questions about your body and health

Having a doctor to speak with heart health regularly can be extremely helpful in preventing heart attacks. Make an appointment through our partner PlushCare, and get in contact with a top online doctor.

I Thought I Had The Flu

Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.

They do this because they are scared and because they put their families first, Goldberg said. There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack.

A heart attack strikes someone about every 43 seconds. It occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances .

Watch an animation of a heart attack.

Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable the image of the elephant comes to mind but in fact they can be subtler and sometimes confusing.

You could feel so short of breath, as though you ran a marathon, but you haven’t made a move, Goldberg said.

Some women experiencing a heart attack describe upper back pressure that feels like squeezing or a rope being tied around them, Goldberg said. Dizziness, lightheadedness or actually fainting are other symptoms to look for.

Many women I see take an aspirin if they think they are having a heart attack and never call 911, Goldberg said. But if they think about taking an aspirin for their heart attack, they should also call 911.

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Angina And Heart Attacks

Angina is a syndrome caused by the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart becoming restricted.

People with angina can experience similar symptoms to a heart attack, but they usually happen during exercise and pass within a few minutes.

However, occasionally, people with angina can have a heart attack. Its important to recognise the difference between the symptoms of angina and those of a heart attack. The best way to do this is to remember that the symptoms of angina can be controlled with medicine, but symptoms of a heart attack cannot.

If you have angina, you may have been prescribed medicine that improves your symptoms within 5 minutes. If the first dose does not work, a second dose can be taken after 5 minutes, and a third dose after a further 5 minutes.

If the pain persists, despite taking 3 doses of glyceryl trinitrate over 15 minutes, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2019 Next review due: 28 November 2022

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How Does Heart Disease Affect Women

What Women Need to Know About Strokes and Heart Attacks

Despite increases in awareness over the past decades, only about half of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.1

Learn more facts about women and heart disease:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 314,186 women in 2020or about 1 in every 5 female deaths.2
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States. Among American Indian and Alaska Native women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer as a cause of death.3
  • About 1 in 16 women age 20 and older have coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease:4
  • About 1 in 16 white women , black women , and Hispanic women
  • About 1 in 30 Asian women

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Lets Win This Together

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. Support the innovative research, education and prevention services that protect the women we love.

Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Womens Health at NYUs Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.

Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesnt get help right away.

Risk Factors For Heart Attack In Women

In addition to knowing key heart attack symptoms, its also important to know if you have risk factors for heart disease. Many women arent aware that theyre at risk for heart attack, explains Dr. Lee. So when they start having symptoms, they dont even consider that its a warning sign.

Common risk factors for women include:

  • Certain medical conditions. Women are at higher risk for heart disease if they have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or an inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
  • Pregnancy complications. Women who had pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, or preeclampsia are at higher risk for a heart attack later in life.
  • Smoking. Research shows that smoking can increase the risk of heart attack for young people.3 And female smokers are 25% more likely to have heart disease than male smokers.3
  • Lifestyle choices. Poor diet, overuse of alcohol, and physical inactivity all increase a womans risk for heart attack.
  • Menopause. Lower levels of estrogen after menopause can increase the risk of heart attack for women.

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These Heart Symptoms Including Swelling Can Appear Early Catch Them Fast To Live A Longer Life

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States and while we’d all like to think we would know if there’s a problem with our heart, oftentimes there aren’t warning signs. And when there are indications of a problem, frequently the symptoms are dismissed or overlooked because they have nothing to do with the heart. “Warning signs can appear on your skin and nails, which is why your dermatologist may be the first doctor to notice that you have heart disease. If you know what to look for, you can also find warning signs of heart disease on your skin and nails,” The American Academy of Dermatologist Association states.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “One person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. About 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2020that’s 1 in every 5 deaths.” While heart disease is common, it’s not inevitable. Many cases are avoidable.

Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women

Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms

Both women and men who have a heart attack often have chest pain. However, in addition to chest pain, women are more likely to have these symptoms:

  • Pain in the shoulder, back, or arm
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms can happen together with chest pain or without any chest pain.

Many women may not recognize that these are symptoms of a heart attack. Women may not get emergency treatment right away if they downplay their symptoms and delay going to the hospital, or if the usual initial screening tests performed at the hospital may not detect an early or atypical heart attack. Because of this, women have a higher risk of serious health problems after a heart attack.

It is important to if you have these symptoms. Early treatment can limit damage to your heart and can save your life.

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Pregnancy And Heart Attacks

Heart attacks are not common among pregnant women, but they are possible both during and soon after delivery. Normal changes to your body during pregnancy can raise your risk of a heart attack. Your age, lifestyle habits, and other health conditions, such as bleeding disorders, obesity, preeclampsia , and diabetes, can also raise your risk.

If you already have coronary artery disease, being pregnant can raise your risk of a heart attack. Coronary artery disease is a major cause of heart attacks during pregnancy. Ask your doctor whether it is safe for you to get pregnant and what steps you need to take to keep your heart healthy during your pregnancy.

Heart attacks caused by spontaneous coronary artery dissection , a coronary artery embolus, or a coronary artery spasm are more common in pregnant women than in people who are not pregnant.

If you have symptoms of a heart attack during your pregnancy, or at any time, . Your healthcare team will take steps to protect your baby during these tests. Your healthcare team will also make sure that any treatment you take for a heart attack is safe to use during pregnancy.

Watch one womans story about surviving a heart attack soon after delivery.

Do Women Have As Many Heart Attacks As Men

Coronary heart disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK every year, and it was the single biggest killer of women worldwide in 2019. Despite this, its often considered a mans disease.There are more than 800,000 women in the UK living with CHD, which is the main cause of heart attacks.

Each year more than 30,000 women are admitted to hospital in the UK due to a heart attack.

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Signs And Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women

Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person but the most common signs of a heart attack are:

  • chest pain or discomfort in your chest that suddenly occurs and doesnt go away. It may feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing
  • the pain may spread to your left or right arm or may spread to your neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • you may also feel sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.

Other less common symptoms include:

  • a sudden feeling of anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack
  • excessive coughing or wheezing

If you think youre having a heart attack, call 999 for an ambulance immediately.

Women may be less likely to seek medical attention and treatment quickly, despite the warning signs. This can dramatically reduce your chance of survival. Rapid treatment is essential, and the aim is to restore blood flow to the affected part of the heart muscle as soon as possible. This helps to limit the amount of damage to the heart.

Heart Attack And Women

Does A Numb Left Arm Mean A Heart Attack?

A heart attack happens when blood flow in an artery to the heart is blocked by a blood clot or plaque, and the heart muscle begins to die. Women are more likely than men to die after a heart attack. But if you get help quickly, treatment can save your life and prevent permanent damage to your heart.

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Why Are Heart Attack Symptoms In Women Important

There is also still a lot of research to be done regarding heart attack symptoms in women. But itâs important to research because women seem to have more subtle symptoms than men and often donât get diagnosed correctlyââleading to potentially fatal results.

The differences in symptoms from person to person depending on health conditions, lifestyle, age, and family history, among many other things. Paying attention to any symptoms that seem odd and speaking to a doctor about ongoing symptoms is essential. You can make an appointment through our partner site PlushCare, and talk to a licensed physician about looking out for heart attack symptoms in women.

If you believe you have a heart attack, seek emergency care immediately.

Many Cases Of Heart Disease Are Treatable

According to Dr. Stahl, “Heart disease, particularly the most common coronary artery disease due to atherosclerosis, is often preventable if detected early. For most patients, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise and poor diet contribute to developing heart disease. It is important to get regular blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes screening. Everyone over the age of 20 should undergo screening at least every 5 years. Screening and treating its risk factors is the best way to prevent heart disease from developing.”

Dr. Hascalovici explains, “Heart disease can be quite treatable, particularly when it’s caught early. Many of those treatments involve making manageable behavioral changes that lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Early indicators of heart disease include a number of signs, many of them involving pain and pressure in your chest or arms.”

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Do Women Fare Better Or Worse Than Men After A Heart Attack

Younger women under age 45 have a better outcome than men of a similar age. Scientists believe this is because of estrogens heart-protective effects. However, after menopause ends the protective benefits of estrogen, women fare worse than men. More specifically:

  • Women between the ages of 45 and 65 whove had a heart attack are more likely to die within a year of the event compared with men of this same age.
  • Women over age 65 are more likely to die within weeks of their heart attack than men over age 65.

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Warning Signs Of A Heart Attack In Women

Heart attack warning signs in women

People often think that heart attacks are something that happen to older men, not women. But heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.1 Yet only about half of women know this.1

Plus, the way women experience a heart attack can feel different from men. While both men and women may have chest pain during a heart attack, women tend to also have more symptoms than just chest pain.

Researchers found that when women have a heart attack, theyre more likely to experience 3 or more related symptoms compared to men.2 These symptoms may include jaw pain, neck pain, back pain, and shortness of breath, and can make it hard for women to tell if theyre having a heart attack.

Women are also more likely than men to think their heart attack symptoms are caused by anxiety and stress.2 This misunderstanding combined with a wider range of symptoms can cause women to wait longer to get treated.

Several studies have shown that women wait longer to get treatment for a heart attack than men, says Mingsum Lee, MD, a clinical cardiologist at Kaiser Permanentes Los Angeles Medical Center.

So, its important to learn these symptoms of a heart attack and know when to seek care.

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How Are Heart Attacks Treated

Treating a heart attack means restoring blood flow to the affected heart muscle as soon as possible. This can happen in a variety of ways, ranging from medication to surgery. Its extremely likely that treatment will use several of the following methods.

Supplementary oxygen

People having trouble breathing or with low blood oxygen levels will often receive supplementary oxygen along with other heart attack treatments. You can breathe the oxygen either through a tube that sits just below your nose or a mask that fits over your nose and mouth. This increases the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood and reduces the strain on your heart.


  • Anti-clotting medications: This includes aspirin and other blood-thinning medicines.
  • Nitroglycerin: This medicine is used to relieve chest pain. It also is a powerful vasodilator, meaning it causes blood vessels to widen so blood can pass through more easily.
  • Thrombolytic medications: These intravenous medications cause blood clots to break down and dissolve. These medications are usually used only within the first 12 hours after a heart attack.
  • Anti-arrhythmia medications: Heart attacks can often cause malfunctions in your hearts normal beating rhythm called arrhythmias. Some arrhythmias can be life-threatening. Anti-arrhythmia medications can stop or prevent these malfunctions.
  • Pain medications: The most common pain medication given during heart attack care is morphine. This can help alleviate chest pain.

What Is Heart Disease

Heart disease is a general term that includes many types of heart problems. Its also called cardiovascular disease, which means heart and blood vessel disease.

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in both men and women. It happens slowly over time when a sticky substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply your heart muscle with blood. The plaque narrows or blocks blood flow to the heart muscle and can lead to:

  • Angina chest pain from lack of blood flow
  • Heart attacks when part of the heart muscle dies from loss of blood flow
  • Heart failure when your heart cant pump enough blood to meet your bodys needs
  • Arrhythmia a problem with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat

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