Heart attacks are often thought of as a problem that only affects men. However, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, causing one in every five female deaths. Despite this, women are often unaware of the symptoms of a heart attack and may mistake them for less serious conditions. Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack in women can help you seek medical attention quickly and potentially save your life.
Main Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Women
The symptoms of a heart attack in women can be different from those in men. The main symptoms of a heart attack in women include:
- Chest pain or discomfort – This can feel like a tightness, pressure, fullness or squeezing sensation that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in the arms, neck, jaw, back, or stomach – Women may experience pain or discomfort in any of these areas during a heart attack. The pain may be sudden and severe or may come and go.
- Shortness of breath – Women may feel short of breath or have difficulty breathing during a heart attack, even without chest pain.
- Nausea, vomiting, or lightheadedness – Women may experience these symptoms during a heart attack, especially if they have diabetes.
- Sweating – Women may sweat profusely during a heart attack, even if they are not exerting themselves.
Other less common symptoms of a heart attack in women may include fatigue, dizziness, or palpitations.
Why Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Women are Different
The symptoms of a heart attack in women may be different from those in men for several reasons. Women are more likely to have blockages in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart, called microvascular disease. This can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and discomfort in the neck, jaw, or back.
In addition, women may be more likely to delay seeking medical attention for a heart attack. This may be because they are more likely to have atypical symptoms, or because they may not recognize the symptoms as being related to a heart attack.
What to Do if You Experience Symptoms of a Heart Attack
If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency number and describe your symptoms. Do not drive yourself to the hospital, as this can be dangerous. Emergency responders can provide immediate care and transport you to the hospital.
In the meantime, chew and swallow aspirin, if you’re not allergic. This can help to thin your blood and prevent further blockages from forming. Also, try to stay calm and lie down until help arrives.
Heart attacks are a serious health condition that can affect anyone, including women. Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack in women can help you seek medical attention quickly and potentially save your life. Remember, if you experience symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.