What are the signs of heart disease in women?

Dr. Michael W. Gen, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Becoming short of breath is the most common symptom of heart disease in women. Fatigue, weakness and low energy are symptoms in men, but are more common in women. Many experience chest pain that can radiate and spread to the arms, the jaw and upper back. Feeling dizzy and passing out are other symptoms. Women are more prone to atypical or unusual signs and symptoms, which do occur with men, but are more prominent in women.

Women often have more atypical signs of heart disease which can be:

  • unusual amounts of fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • flu-like symptoms
  • dizziness
  • indigestion
  • palpitations
  • a feeling of anxiety or what they call a sense of dread

All of these things can be signs of heart disease, and women should have a low threshold for getting checked out. Women tend to have a higher threshold. Women tend to wait longer and blow things off when, in fact, they should have a lower threshold and present to their doctors quicker.

Women often chalk up symptoms of heart disease to anxiety and stress or fatigue, and they don't present for evaluation soon enough. If they feel that something is not right, something is not typical, in terms of how they typically feel, they should contact their primary care doctor and let him or her decide if that thing needs further work up.
Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
Although chest pain is the most common symptom in both men and women, the location of the pain will depend on which part of the heart is affected. It most often is described as a tightness or pressure across the chest. But the pain can feel like something else, such as a stomach cramp, indigestion, a headache, or a pulled muscle. Women are great deniers and are good at dismissing symptoms as the normal aches and pains of everyday living. However, these symptoms should never be ignored:
  • Pressure, tightness, and a squeezing pain across the chest
  • Pain radiating down the arm, shoulders, jaw, neck, and back, particularly on the left side
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, sweating, weakness, or overwhelming fatigue
  • A feeling of impending doom
  • A headache, blurry vision, lightheadedness, or feeling faint
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, nausea, and vomiting
  • Coughing and palpitations
Dr. Suzanne R. Steinbaum, DO
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
Signs of heart disease in women may be as subtle as flu-like symptoms, fatigue, or not being able to do what you normally do. Watch me explain why awareness of these symptoms and your risk factors is so important.

Being aware of your body and signals that it gives you assists in improving your overall health. Women often experience unusual or atypical symptoms of heart disease. For example, only 30 percent of female heart attack patients report typical chest pain. Some other symptoms that may be heart related include:

  • Unusual fatigue or weakness
  • Unexplained cold sweats
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Palpitations or irregular heartbeats
  • Chest, jaw, neck, or arm pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.