Question

Heart Attack

What unusual symptoms can heart attacks cause in women?

A Answers (2)

  • 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?" - http://myheartsisters.org/2009/08/14/how-does-it-feel/ - 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!
    Helpful? 2 people found this helpful.
  • 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.
    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
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What's the difference between heart attack symptoms in men and women?