Heart Attacks in Women - Signs and Symptoms

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If you've had a heart attack, what were your signs and symptoms?

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What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

For both women and men, the most common sign of a heart attack is:

  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest. The pain or discomfort can be mild or strong. It can last more than a few minutes, or it can go away and come back.

Other common signs of a heart attack include:

  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath (feeling like you can't get enough air). The shortness of breath often occurs before or along with the chest pain or discomfort.
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) or vomiting
  • Feeling faint or woozy
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat

Women are more likely than men to have these other common signs of a heart attack, particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and pain in the back, neck, or jaw. Women are also more likely to have less common signs of a heart attack, including:

  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Coughing
  • Heart flutters

Sometimes the signs of a heart attack happen suddenly, but they can also develop slowly, over hours, days, and even weeks before a heart attack occurs.

The more heart attack signs that you have, the more likely it is that you are having a heart attack. Also, if you've already had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for another one. Even if you're not sure you're having a heart attack, you should still have it checked out.

If you think you, or someone else, may be having a heart attack, wait no more than a few minutes - five at most - before calling 911.

Picture of a woman's body showing how a heart attack affects the body,
Return to Heart Attacks in Women

See what others are saying

Comment from: jmu1975, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 13

I had a heart attack 8 months ago. I had just lost 15 pounds for my daughter's wedding and had been eating well and getting plenty of exercise. I am not overweight, but I do have high blood pressure for which I was on medication and have high cholesterol with low HDL. I awoke to low back pain that was a nagging pain but didn't think anything much of it, just that maybe I had overdone it. As the day progressed I noticed my blood pressure was on the high side which is unusual since I am on medications. I still didn't think much of it, had heartburn before dinner time and took something for it. It seemed better, I went out shopping and collapsed and went unconscious. I was alone in the store in a remote section of the store and came to on my own. I was sweating profusely and vomited. I still had no idea. I blamed it on the fact it had been so hot and maybe I was dehydrated. I went to the emergency room where after hours of tests I was told I had had a heart attack and I had to have angioplasty and 2 stents placed, one for 100 percent blockage and the other for 80 percent blockage. I never thought it could happen to me. I was 57.

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