8 Warning Signs of a Heart Attack in Women
Heart attacks are often thought of as a predominantly male health concern, but they can affect women just as frequently. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women worldwide. However, women may experience heart attack symptoms differently than men, which can make it challenging to recognize the warning signs. In this blog, we will discuss the key heart attack symptoms that women should know, as early recognition and prompt action can save lives.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, and according to the CDC, around 44 percent of American women are living with some form of it. The most common heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack. Despite what many people think, heart attacks don't always happen suddenly or with obvious symptoms.
In fact, they can be much more subtle for women than for men. Therefore, it is essential for women to be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack and to seek medical attention immediately if they experience any of them. In this blog post, our team at ER of Texas Emergency Room discusses heart attack symptoms that women should know and when to seek medical help at our emergency center.
1. Chest Pain or Discomfort.
Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack experienced by both men and women. However, the pain is often not as severe in women as it is in men. It’s common for women to experience a squeezing or tightness feeling in their chest that can last for more than a few minutes. This discomfort may come and go, making it hard to pinpoint the cause.
The discomfort can be described as a dull ache, tightness, or pressure in the chest that isn't relieved by rest or medication. Others have described it as more of a burning sensation. Women are also more likely than men to have pain in other areas, such as the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
Sudden sweating plus chest pain is another related heart attack symptom for women. You may break out in a cold sweat or feel clammy while also feeling some chest pain.
3. Upper Back, Neck, and Jaw Pain.
Sometimes chest pain can shoot or travel through your arm, neck, jaw, or your back. The pain may gradually get more intense over several minutes. Since most people expect pain to be in their chest during a heart attack, these symptoms can be very confusing. This is especially true because it may be difficult to pinpoint where the pain started.
Also see: When to Go to The ER for Heart Problems
4. Shortness of Breath.
Women may experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing before having a heart attack without experiencing any chest pain. This symptom is often dismissed as an asthma attack or acid reflux but can be a sign of a heart attack. This happens when the heart struggles to pump blood, and the lungs don't receive enough oxygen. Women can experience this symptom while performing everyday activities or even while resting.
5. Dizziness or Lightheadedness.
During a heart attack, the heart struggles to circulate blood, causing a drop in blood pressure. This can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, and sometimes even fainting, particularly while standing up. Women often feel this symptom accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or sweating.
6. Stomach pain.
Nausea and stomach pain may also be heart attack warning signs for women. Sometimes people come in late for care because they think they’re having heartburn or acid reflux. Heartburn or reflux comes from inflammation in the esophagus — the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach — which is right next to the heart. This can make it hard to tell if it’s discomfort from eating certain foods or a heart attack. Generally speaking, heartburn can be triggered by certain spicy food, citrus, and alcohol. And acid reflux feels worse when you lie down.
Unexplained fatigue or a feeling of weakness, especially on exertion, can also be a sign of a heart attack. Women may feel more tired than usual or unable to keep up with their daily activities. The fatigue is consistent and does not improve with rest. Women with diabetes are more likely to have this symptom.
8. Sleep Disturbances.
Sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, can indicate an increased risk of a heart attack. Studies show that women who experience sleep disturbances have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
Risk factors for heart attack in women.
In addition to knowing key heart attack symptoms, it’s also important to know if you have risk factors for heart disease. Many women aren’t aware that they’re at risk for heart attack. So when they start having symptoms, they don’t even consider that it’s a warning sign.
Common risk factors for women include:
- Certain medical conditions. Women are at higher risk for heart disease if they have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or an inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
- Pregnancy complications. Women who had pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, or preeclampsia are at higher risk for a heart attack later in life.
- Smoking. Research shows that smoking can increase the risk of heart attack for young people. And female smokers are 25% more likely to have heart disease than male smokers.
- Lifestyle choices. Poor diet, overuse of alcohol, and physical inactivity all increase a woman’s risk for heart attack.
- Menopause. Lower levels of estrogen after menopause can increase the risk of heart attack for women.
It’s important to understand your risk factors and be aware of common heart attack symptoms. Another way you can take care of your heart health is by focusing on prevention. You can find more heart-healthy lifestyle tips, as well as evidence-based treatments for cardiac care.
Emergency Care in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Remember, this blog provides general information and should not replace professional medical advice. Recognizing these early warning signs and seeking immediate medical attention is essential to prevent further damage to your heart. If you or anyone you know experiences these symptoms, especially in combination, take the situation seriously and don't hesitate to visit ER near you. When in doubt, always seek help and call your Nearest Emergency Room if you experience changes in heart rate, Extreme fatigue, a prolonged bout of diarrhea or vomiting, signs of dehydration, unexplained confusion, muscle cramps, numbness or tingling. We have board-certified physicians, nurses and staff to help you recover and give appropriate treatment and medical advice.
We have ER locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.
We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area with average wait times of less than 10 mins that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.