Heart Attack

What are the symptoms of a heart attack in women?

A Answers (13)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Mary J Blige  heart disease in women
    Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Mehmet Oz about heart disease.

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  • Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, as with men women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Women may also experience these symptoms:

    • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back
    • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
    • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
    • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

    Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. If you have any of these signs, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help.

    Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

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  • AChetan A. Patel, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of Greenville Health System
    The classic symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. This is true for women as well; however, women are more likely to present with atypical symptoms. These include shortness of breath, indigestion, upper back pain, jaw pain, palpitations, extreme fatigue, and arm pain.

    The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
  • ASuzanne Steinbaum, DO, Cardiology, answered
    What are the symptoms of a heart attack in women?

    Common symptoms of a heart attack in women include chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, jaw and back pain. Watch cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, describe these signs and what to do if you think you are having an episode.

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  • AAmerican Red Cross answered
    Women are more likely to have sudden, sharp-but-short-lived pain outside the breastbone during a heart attack. They also may experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back or jaw pain, and unexplained fatigue or malaise.
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  • AAudrey Kunin, MD, Dermatology, answered
    My heart attack occurred at the end of December. My family was readying for a holiday trip the following day. That morning I'd run over to the grocery to pick up a few last minute items. Suddenly, an overwhelming tube of burning sensation was radiating directly from my back forward into my mid-chest.

    I knew women often experience "atypical pain" like jaw pain or nausea with a heart attack, but burning? I kept thinking all the NSAIDs I'd popped the previous week for a cold were causing the discomfort. I continued shopping, clutching my chest, thinking this must be one awful case of heartburn (an ulcer perhaps?). By the time I reach the dairy aisle, I was contemplating slurping some sour cream to cool things off. The pain probably only lasted a matter of minutes and once gone I continued onward with my errands. After all, women aren't supposed to let a little pain get us down, right?

    It wasn't until I developed left arm pain that I began to wonder if things weren't going quite as well as I'd thought. I got into the car, and thought, "Do I go to the hospital where they will surely admit me, I'll miss the trip, the hotel is non-refundable, I'll be fine, and my husband will be REALLY mad at me, or do I go home?" You guessed it, I drove home. By the time I reached my street however, the classic signs of a heart attack, crushing pain and shortness of breath, began.
  • AKelly Anne Spratt, DO, Cardiology, answered on behalf of Penn Medicine

    Recognizing the symptoms of heart attack in women may not always be as clear-cut as it is for men. The most prominent symptoms that are sure signs of trouble that women should keep an eye out for are:

    • Pressure, tightness, fullness, and discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or comes and goes in waves
    • Pain or pressure that spreads to the shoulders, between the shoulder blades, neck, upper back, jaw, or arms
    • Jaw or throat pain
    • Crushing chest pain
    • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
    • Nausea and/or dizziness
    • Cold sweat
    • Paleness
    • Overwhelming fatigue or weakness
    • Abdominal pain

    Women often mistakenly think only severe chest pain is a symptom of a heart attack and delay seeking medical care. Many patients say they feel that doctors didn’t take them or their symptoms seriously. Be persistent. You know your body and when you aren’t feeling well. Seek the medical attention you need and deserve.

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  • ARichard Scherczinger, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of Carolinas HealthCare System
    In a Gallup survey, 88% of primary care physicians were not aware that women's heart-attack symptoms might differ greatly from men's symptoms. In addition, emergency room (ER) physicians miss the signs of a heart attack much more often in women under 55 than in men under 55, according to a recent study published in "The New England Journal of Medicine."

    Signs and symptoms of heart attack in women include:
    1. Chest discomfort
    2. Pain spreading to the jaw, neck, shoulders, or arm
    3. Shortness of breath
    4. Nausea
    5. Sweating
    6. Indigestion or gas-like pain
    7. Dizziness
    8. Unexplained weakness or fatigue
    9. Discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades
    10. Sense of impending doom
  • AMary Ann Mclaughlin, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System

    The symptoms that present in women are generally more subtle than those that present in men, causing many women to ignore them. Should you or a loved one experience the following symptoms, please take them seriously:

    • Feeling unusually tired
    • Feeling pressure in the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades, especially walking up a hill
    • Breaking  out in a cold sweat
    • Experiencing sleep disturbance, indigestion, and anxiety
    • Feeling band-like pressure commonly described as “bra too tight.”

    If you believe you or a loved one is having a heart attack, please call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency department immediately. Women tend to delay going to ED, compared with men having heart attacks. Remember, time is muscle - the faster one reaches the ED, the less potential heart damage. 

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  • ADeb Cordes, Physical Medicine/rehabilitation, answered on behalf of Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)

    Symptoms of heart attack may be different in women. That’s why understanding the symptoms of a woman’s heart attack is important. Getting immediate medical treatment is vital to avoid serious problems or death with heart attack. 

    Until the age of 55, men are much more likely than women to have a heart attack. But a woman’s risk of heart attack goes up sharply after menopause. A woman’s heart attack may not start with a sudden pain. Instead, the heart attack may start mildly or cause discomfort. A woman may feel uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain that may come and go. In addition, a woman with a heart attack may have shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. Other signs may include upper back pain and upper abdominal pain, nausea, light-headedness and sweating.

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  • ADenise Dietz, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of HCA Virginia
    Women can experience a heart attack without the typical symptoms. Instead, they may experience non-typical (atypical) symptoms such as pain or discomfort in both arms, back, neck and stomach. They may develop shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort. Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. Their symptoms may be more subtle. Diabetic women are more likely to present with atypical symptoms.
  • ACarolyn Thomas, Healthcare, answered on behalf of Heart Sisters
    Both men and women experience what are called "atypical" heart attack symptoms, but women may experience symptoms that are more vague than the textbook "Hollywood Heart Attack" we imagine when we think about cardiac events. It's important to remember that about 40% of us experience NO chest symptoms at all even in mid-heart attack -- no pressure, no pain, no tightness, no heaviness, NOTHING! When I interviewed other female survivors for my Heart Sisters article called "How Does It Really Feel to Have a Heart Attack?" -- -- even I was surprised by the wide variety of vague symptoms reported. These included fatigue, cough, vomiting, and others that wouldn't immediately make you think "heart attack" if you experience them. Here are some reported female symptoms of heart attack that may or may not occur:
    • atypical pain, discomfort, pressure, heaviness, tightness or fullness in the chest, left or right arms, upper back, shoulder, neck, throat, jaw or stomach
    • weakness, fainting, light-headedness, or extreme and unusual fatigue
    • shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
    • restlessness, insomnia or anxiety
    • bluish color or numbness in lips, hands or feet
    • nausea or vomiting
    • clammy sweats
    • a sense of impending doom
    Not all of these signs occur in every heart attack. Pay attention if these signs come on suddenly or feel unusual for you. Sometimes symptoms go away and then return. They may come on with exertion or when you’re at rest. Women typically wait longer than men to call for help -- don't be one of these!
  • AEileen Kelly, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of NorthShore University HealthSystem
    The symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort that may radiate to the neck, arm, jaw or back. These symptoms are similar to the most common symptoms men get. However, women more often than men can have shortness of breath, GI symptoms (heartburn, acid reflux, nausea or vomiting), back pain or fatigue as their only symptom of a heart attack.
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