Women — Don't Ignore These Heart Attack Symptoms

If you’re a woman and you’re feeling sick to your stomach, tired, and a bit breathless you could be coming down with the flu. That’s one possibility.

But for women, these could also be signs that you’re having a heart attack.

Contrary to popular belief, not all heart attacks start with pain or discomfort in your chest. And for women, heart attacks can come with symptoms other than pain in the left arm and/or shortness of breath. Women and their doctors may mistake these other symptoms as signs of non-life-threatening issues, such as panic attacks, anxiety, or even acid reflux. 

Ignoring or misdiagnosing heart attack symptoms in women may contribute to the fact that women are 2x more likely to die of a heart attack compared to men. In fact, a recent study shows that women wait 37 minutes longer to call for help when they are having heart attack symptoms. 

That’s why it’s important for women to know the symptoms, understand the risk, and take action.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack for women?

Heart attacks in women can cause different symptoms than they do in men. 

We all know the classic warning signs of heart attacks — chest and left arm pain. For women, those symptoms may occur, but there are also other symptoms women should be aware of when it comes to heart attacks, including:1 

  • Pain in the back, neck, jaw, or throat
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea (feeling sick to the stomach)
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • Problems breathing (shortness of breath)

‍Heart disease is the #1 killer of women‍

According to the CDC, only half of women realize that heart disease is their #1 killer, accounting for 1 in every 5 female deaths in the United States. Heart disease is 7 times more likely to kill a woman than breast cancer. ‍

Take action to reduce your risk of heart attack

Now that you know the symptoms of heart attacks in women, you’ll be able to recognize them. Hopefully, you’ll never have to!

To stay in control of your heart health, consider starting to track your blood pressure. Knowing your numbers can help you take the right steps with your doctor to manage your blood pressure. Hello Heart can help you track and better understand your numbers. 

Hello Heart’s hypertension self-management program is a free benefit offered by participating employers and health plans. Contact your employer or health plan to see if you’re eligible for Hello Heart.


Footnotes:

1: Heart attack symptoms. Office on Women's Health Web site. https://www.womenshealth.gov/heart-disease-and-stroke/heart-disease/heart-attack-and-women/heart-attack-symptoms. Published February 17, 2021. Accessed May 31, 2022.

2: Shah T, Haimi I, Yang Y, Gaston S, Taoutel R, Mehta S, Lee HJ, Zambahari R, Baumbach A, Henry TD, Grines CL, Lansk A, Tirziu D. Meta-Analysis of Gender Disparities in In-hospital Care and Outcomes in Patients with ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction. Am J Cardiol. 2021;147:23-32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjcard.2021.02.015. Accessed May 31, 2022.

3: Gender differences in patient and system delay for primary percutaneous coronary intervention: current trends in a Swiss ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction population. Eur Heart J Acute Cardiovasc Care. 2019;8(3):283-290. https://doi.org/10.1177/2048872618810410. Accessed May 31, 2022.

4: Lower Your Risk for the Number 1 Killer of Women. CDC Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/features/heartdisease/index.html#:~:text=Heart%20disease%20is%20the%20leading,in%20every%205%20female%20deaths. Published February 4, 2022. Accessed May 31, 2022.

5: Based on cause of death data from the following sources: (1) LCWK1. Deaths, percent of total deaths, and death rates for the 15 leading causes of death in 5-year age groups, by race and Hispanic origin, and sex: United States, 2017. CDC Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/lcwk/lcwk1_hr_2017-a.pdf. Published December 31, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2022. (2) CDC WONDER Online Database: About Underlying Cause of Death, 1999-2019. CDC Web site. https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html. Published 2020. Accessed May 31, 2022.