Heart Attack Symptoms for Women

Heart attack symptoms for women and men are not identical. These are the most common symptoms shared by both sexes:

  • Pain, pressure, a squeezing sensation, or stabbing pain in the chest
  • Pain radiating to neck, shoulder, back, arm or jaw
  • Pounding heart or change in heart rhythm
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cold sweats or clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Heartburn

Women are more likely than men to experience atypical symptoms such as these:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Several retrospective studies have documented that women also:

  • Have a longer time from symptom onset to hospital arrival1,2
  • Have a longer time from symptom onset to treatment3-6

This suggests symptoms may be ignored or attributed to some other cause by both patients and physicians.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, do not delay! Acting fast can save a life and limit damage to the heart. Do not wait for more than a few minutes — 5 minutes at most — to call 9-1-1.

References

  1. Dracup K, Moser DK, Eisenberg M, Meischke H, Alonzo AA, Braslow A. Causes of delay in seeking treatment for heart attack symptoms. Soc. Sci. Med. 1995;40(3):379-392.
  2. Gurwitz JH, McLaughlin TJ, Willison DJ, Guadagnoli E, Hauptman PJ, Gao X, Soumerai SB. Delayed hospital presentation in patients who have had acute myocardial infarction. Annals of Internal Medicine. 1997:126(8):593-599.
  3. Ayanian JZ, Epstein AM. Differences in the use of procedures between women and men hospitalized for coronary artery disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 1991;325(4):221-225(abstract).
  4. Chandra NC, Ziegelstein RC, Rogers WJ, Tiefenbrunn AJ, Gore JM, French WJ, Rubison M. Observations of the treatment of women in the United States with myocardial infarction: a report from the National Registry of Myocardial Infarction-I. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(9):981-988.
  5. Tsang TS, Barnes ME, Gersh BJ, Hayes SN. Risks of coronary heart disease in women: current understanding and evolving concepts. Mayo Clin Proc. 2000;75(12):1289-1303.
  6. Miller TD, Roger VL, Hodge DO, Hopfenspirger MR, Bailey KR, Gibbons RJ. Gender differences and temporal trends in clinical characteristics, stress test results and the use of invasive procedures in patients undergoing evaluation for coronary artery disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2001;38(3):690-697.