Heart Attack Symptoms: Are Women and Men Different?

woman heart attackHeart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. But the commonplace portrayal of men clutching their arms and chests in a dramatic fashion may cause some confusion about what symptoms women experience.

Often, the attack may be much less obvious than the classic portrayal indicates. Consider the commonly discussed symptoms: An elephant on the chest. Pain in the left arm. Now consider that a heart attack may not present that way; that doesn’t make it any less important to get help fast.

To be sure you can get the right help during or after a heart attack, pay attention to these potential symptoms:

• Fullness or pain or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts or goes away and returns

• Shortness of breath, even without discomfort in the chest

• Cold sweats

• Nausea and lightheadedness

• Pain in the jaw, back, stomach or one or both arms

• Extreme or sudden fatigue

Interestingly, the nausea, cold sweats and lightheadedness or dizziness are often mistaken for the beginnings of a flu. If you aren’t feeling well, it’s important to discuss these symptoms with a doctor to preempt a possible attack.

Perhaps the most notable and strange of these symptoms is the jaw pain, which is not reported as often in men. Be aware that anything out of the ordinary for your body should be addressed with your healthcare practitioner—even seemingly random jaw pain.

Finally, even if you aren’t sure you’re having a heart attack, don’t wait more than five minutes to call for help if you experience these signs.  Not every heart attack is the movie type!

What is your advice for dealing with concerns about heart disease? Share your prevention efforts in a comment.