Are the Signs for a Heart Attack Different in Women?

Heart disease claims the lives of one in four women in the United States. Women may not experience the classic chest-and-radiating-arm pains associated with a heart attack, and, because symptoms may be subtle, they may wait too long for treatment. Symptoms include chest pain/discomfort, heartburn, indigestion, vague discomfort in chest/upper body, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, cold sweat, light-headedness, extreme fatigue, palpitations, nausea and pain in the stomach, upper back, neck or jaw.

Nearly two-thirds of women who die suddenly of a heart attack had no previous symptoms. “There is some debate as to whether heart attacks are missed in women because they show milder symptoms,” says Tanya Dutta, MD, FACC, a noninvasive cardiologist and Director of Echocardiography at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). “These symptoms can also be present in men, but men more commonly experience extreme chest pressure, equated to an elephant sitting on their chest.”

Scheduling a doctor’s appointment to review your personal and family history can lower your chances of future heart disease.

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