According to the American Heart Association, heart attacks affect someone every 34 seconds (1).
Commonly listed heart attack symptoms effectively diagnose men, but may not work for women.
Heart Attacks And Women
In fact, women feel different symptoms and pain than men. These symptoms closely resemble those of acid reflux, the flu and aging.
“Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure,” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D.
This means that it’s more difficult for women to know if they’re having a heart attack and may only seek help once it’s too late.
This is particularly problematic because heart disease is the number one killer for women. It’s actually responsible for 1 in 4 female deaths (2).
What Causes A Heart Attack?
A heart attack happens when blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This is usually caused by a build-up of up of fat, cholesterol and other substances, called plaque. via Heart
How To Recognize A Heart Attack
These symptoms may present themselves days or even weeks before a heart attack occurs. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, it’s worth to look out for these symptoms.
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1. Uncomfortable Pressure In The Center Of The Chest
This is the most well-known symptom of cardiac distress, although it’s often more recognized in men than women.
The pressure may feel like “fullness” or “squeezing”, can be mild to severe and may come and go (3).
Women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Women who feel unusual fatigue (without having exercised) should speak to their doctor.
This is especially important if the fatigue is combined with difficulty lifting something or standing up.
3. Discomfort In Seemingly Unrelated Areas
Feeling uneasiness in areas such as the neck, arms, jaw, back, and/or stomach can be a powerful indicator of an upcoming heart attack.
If it’s strong enough to push you to take an aspirin, it’s definitely worth a doctor’s visit or an emergency trip to the hospital.
4. It Feels Like It’s All In Your Head
Experiencing lightheadedness, random cold sweat, and shortness of breath without exerting yourself physically is cause for concern.
You may feel as though your imagination is running wild, but don’t take these signs too lightly. This is one set of symptoms you don’t want to keep away from your doctor.
Nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and pain in the jaw or back may make you feel like you’re experiencing food poisoning.
Unfortunately, these easily mistaken signs may actually foreshadow a heart attack.
Abdominal discomfort is pretty common for women; whether it be caused by indigestion, acid reflux, menstruation, hormonal changes or the flu.
If you experience indigestion in combination with other symptoms, it’s probably worth calling the hospital.
7. Aches In Your Neck, Shoulders, Or Upper Back
Feeling pressure, tightness or discomfort in the neck, shoulder, or upper back may be experienced by women in the weeks before suffering from a heart attack.
Diabetics, overweight individuals and elderly adults should keep an eye for this straightforward sign.
What To Do If You’re Experiencing A Heart Attack
“If you or someone near you has heart attack symptoms, don’t wait for more than 5 minutes to call 911.” via WebMD
Chew and swallow an aspirin and sit down if possible while waiting for the ambulance. Do not drive yourself to the hospital unless you have no other choice.
Many women delay treatment because they doubt they really are having a heart attack.
They may also want not to bother or worry their friends and family. When in doubt, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.