Women often mistake heart attack symptoms for less serious conditions or feel embarrassed to get help. That’s why it’s important to learn about the signs of a heart attack in women.
Chest pain and pressure are the most common symptoms of a heart attack. But women may also experience other symptoms. These include shortness of breath, pressure or squeezing in the chest, nausea or dizziness.
Chest pain, whether it occurs along with shortness of breath or before, is the most common symptom of heart attacks in women. The pain is usually in the center or left side of your chest and may feel like a tight or squeezing sensation.
Women may also experience other symptoms, such as nausea or abdominal pressure, which can be mistaken for heartburn or stomach ulcers. But it is important to understand that chest pain is a warning sign and should not be ignored.
Shortness of Breath
Women who have heart attacks often experience shortness of breath before chest pain. Despite this, less than a third report it to their doctors before an attack, according to a study published in Circulation.
Doctors can tell if someone has shortness of breath by listening to their lungs and heart with a stethoscope. They also check oxygen levels in the blood.
If your doctor notices a pattern, they may do further tests to identify the cause of your shortness of breath. They also take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination.
Pressure or Squeezing
The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, pressure or discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes or comes and goes. Women can also experience nausea/vomiting, back or jaw pain and shortness of breath.
But not all heart attacks include chest pain. Some people don’t feel any chest pain, or they may have chest discomfort that feels like indigestion.
If you have chest pain, call your healthcare provider for advice. They can help you determine if it’s angina or a heart attack.
Nausea or Vomiting
We’ve all seen the movies where a man clutches his chest and falls to the ground, but women are more likely than men to have less typical heart attack symptoms.
Among the most common heart attack symptoms in women is nausea or vomiting. This can happen for several reasons, including food poisoning, stomach flu or a viral infection.
It’s especially important for women to tell a doctor if they’re experiencing these symptom. This can help doctors decide if they need to do something more serious like an electrocardiogram. Alternatively, it could make them take your condition more seriously and get you to the hospital sooner.
Dizziness or Lightheadedness
A lack of blood flow to the heart can lead to dizziness or lightheadedness. It’s important to tell your health care provider if you have this symptom.
Often, it will go away on its own or can be treated with medicine, water or a low-salt diet. But it’s always good to see a doctor if it doesn’t clear up after a few hours or days.
Another common symptom of a heart attack is upper back pain that feels like squeezing or a rope being tied around the chest. This is more common in women than men, and can happen up to four weeks before a heart attack occurs.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms that women may experience in the months before a heart attack. However, it can also be a symptom of many medical conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
If you’re experiencing unusual fatigue, make an appointment to see your doctor. They can take a careful history of your symptoms, perform a physical exam and order any tests that may be needed to discover the cause.