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How Heart Attacks May Present Differently in Women

How Heart Attacks May Present Differently in Women

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for women in the United States, even though many people think of it as an issue that usually affects men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 1 in 5 deaths among women is due to heart disease. 

A heart attack is only one outcome of heart disease, but recognizing the symptoms can save your life. 

The experts at Heart & Vascular Institute want all of our patients to be aware of the symptoms of heart attack so you can take action quickly to prevent unnecessary damage to your heart.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or not, and regardless of your gender, we encourage you to become familiar with the symptoms of a heart attack so you can get help fast if you need to. 

The risk factors for heart disease are the same for men and women, and so are the symptoms of heart attack. However, women may have less noticeable symptoms or not connect what they experience with a heart attack. 

In this post, we consider the symptoms of heart attack and how they may differ between men and women. 

Chest pain

Chest pain is the leading symptom of a heart attack in both men and women, but it’s possible to have a heart attack without having any chest pain at all. It may be mild enough that you’d consider it more discomfort than pain, or it may be a feeling of pressure rather than pain. 

In fact, women are more likely to describe the feeling as one of tightness or pressure than pain. It may only last a few minutes, or it may come and go, but whether it’s chest pain, tightness, or pressure, it may not be the most noticeable or severe symptom. 

Pain or discomfort in other areas

You may have the same kind of feeling of tightness or pressure in your upper back, abdomen, shoulder, neck, or jaw. Again, the feeling might be vague, it may come and go, or it may be brief. 

Shortness of breath

If you’re sitting on the sofa or going about your daily routine and you suddenly feel as if you’ve run a marathon and can’t quite catch your breath, you may be experiencing a heart attack. 

Although being short of breath may not seem like an emergency, it can be. If you feel that way, especially if you have other symptoms, call 911. 

Lightheadedness or dizziness

It’s normal to feel dizzy sometimes, but if it comes on suddenly and you haven’t done anything that could cause it, such as standing up too fast, it may be a symptom of a heart attack. 

Other symptoms

You may also feel sweaty or experience nausea or vomiting. You might feel unusually fatigued or like you have indigestion. 

All of these symptoms can feel vague, but if you’re having them together, it’s an emergency. 

What you should do

When it comes to a heart attack, it’s crucial to get help as quickly as possible. Don’t take an aspirin and plan to see your doctor the next day. If you feel any of the symptoms listed in this post, call 911 immediately. 

The sooner you get care, the better chance there is to save your heart. Heart muscle that’s damaged during a heart attack may not function properly again, leading to heart failure — your heart won’t be able to pump blood as efficiently. 

If you’re a woman who has questions about heart health, call one of our three convenient locations in Dearborn, Detroit, or Southfield, Michigan, or use the online booking tool to schedule your appointment.

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