American Heart Month: How Women Experience Heart Attacks Differently

As many of you may already be aware, February is American Heart Month. We hear a lot about being aware of heart attack symptoms, keeping blood pressure in check, which foods are heart healthy and which exercises benefit the cardiovascular system.

Something that isn’t talked about as much (but should be) is the fact that women often experience different symptoms than men during a heart attack. There have even been some women who mistook their heart attack for the flu because they weren’t able to recognize the symptoms as being related to a heart attack.

So, even though heart attacks seem to have the classic arm/chest pain, complete with pressure in the chest, this might not be the case for everyone.

According to the American Heart Association, the common symptoms women experience before and during a heart attack include:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

It’s not unusual for women to experience pressure in the abdominal region versus the expected pressure in the chest, so it is vital to be on the lookout for that, as well.

Ultimately, although it is a rather ugly truth, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States and there are steps you can take/modifications you can make to your lifestyle to prevent it. This is not something to be taken lightly and it is important to be prepared and armed with the facts.

Remember, most importantly, if you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, it’s always better safe than sorry and 9-1-1 should be dialed immediately.