Published on March 27, 2018

Women: Learn when you might be having a heart attack

Women are as much at-risk for heart attack as men.

Doctors have been driving home that message for many years.

But there’s another part of that message that is equally important—and you may not know: Women may have different symptoms of a heart attack than men.

“Although chest pain, tightness and pressure are the most common symptoms of a heart attack in both women and men, women may have atypical symptoms,” says Sonela Skenderi, DO, FACC, a medical cardiologist with Mercy Cardiology at Nazareth Hospital.

Chest painThose symptoms may include:

  • Pain or pressure in the back, neck, jaw or throat
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Overwhelming, new fatigue
  • Significant shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or fainting

Get help fast

Symptoms of a heart attack can come and go, and they can be subtle. And if you’ve already had one heart attack, the symptoms for another one might be different.

No matter what, don’t ignore symptoms, and don’t blame them on something like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging—as many women do.

“It’s really important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and to seek medical attention right away,” Dr. Skenderi says. “It could save your life.”

Call 911 immediately if you think you’re having a heart attack. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital or ask a friend. Emergency medical responders can begin treating you on the way to the hospital. Treatments for opening clogged arteries—the main cause of heart attacks—work best if given within the first hour after a heart attack starts.

About 3.2 million women in the U.S. have had a heart attack. Knowing the signs of heart attack could save your life—or the life of someone you love.