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Heart Attack Symptoms Can Be Different for Men and Women

May 17, 2022

Heart disease is sometimes thought of as a man’s disease, but it is also the leading cause of death in American women, with about one in five dying from the illness.

Nearly two-thirds of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease have no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s why it is important to be aware of the risks and take preventive steps. For those already diagnosed with heart disease, it’s vital to take good care to minimize the progression of the illness.

Well-known risk factors for heart disease for both men and women are diabetes, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol levels, obesity, physical inactivity and smoking.

Heart disease comes in different forms, but the one most people are familiar with is a heart attack, which occurs when the flow of blood that brings oxygen to the heart gets reduced or cut off. That happens when the arteries bringing blood to the heart narrow from an accumulation of fat or cholesterol.

Women Heart Attack Symptoms

While women may feel crushing pain in the chest, the symptoms also may be more subtle and come and go. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or discomfort in the arm, back or neck
  • Upper back pressure
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Vomiting

Risk Factors for Women

There some are conditions that put women at higher risk for a heart attack, including:

  • Preterm delivery
  • Hypertensive disorders in pregnancy
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Radiation for left-sided breast cancer
  • Persistence of weight gain after pregnancy

With the onset of symptoms, it is important to get treatment right away to limit the damage that may be occurring to the heart from a lack of blood flow.

Men Heart Attack Symptoms

For men and women, the most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain. Although women are more likely to experience a variety of symptoms, some men do, too. For both genders, the more symptoms an individual experiences, the greater the likelihood a heart attack is occurring.

Men should pay attention to these reactions:

  • Pain, pressure, squeezing or aching in the chest or arm — can spread to jaw, neck and back
  • Nausea, heartburn or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
Most heart attacks start slowly with the onset of mild pain, but some can be sudden. Quick action is vital to save a life if any of these symptoms are present. Call 911 even if you are not sure it is a heart attack.

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