Signs and symptoms of a heart attack vary greatly between genders, with female symptoms often much subtler and more frequently overlooked than their male counterparts’ warning signs.
Heart attacks affect thousands of families every year in the United States. A heart attack occurs when the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is drastically reduced or completely cut off. This oxygen shortage can result in serious damage to the heart muscle tissue if left untreated. Some people are able to make a full recovery from a heart attack and continue to live a normal life, while others endure permanent damage or worse, death. Treating a heart attack as quickly as possible can dramatically reduce the amount of damage it does to the heart. An integral part of heart attack defense is recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack, which can present differently in men and women.
We have all seen the “television heart attack” where a person has intense chest pain and collapses. While someone could experience this type of heart attack, it is more likely the individual will have milder symptoms initially. Men are more likely to suffer from classic heart attack symptoms. The most common symptom is chest discomfort, which could range from pressure to squeezing to outright pain. Other signs of heart attack may include trouble breathing, feelings of nausea or heartburn that mimic indigestion, vomiting or breaking out in a cold sweat. Both men and women can exhibit these symptoms, however women seem to experience the latter symptoms more frequently than their male counterparts.
Some women who sustain a heart attack report feeling unusual fatigue for months prior to the heart attack or sudden fatigue at the onset of the heart attack. They may also suffer from sleep problems. Some women do not feel pain in the center of the chest as a heart attack symptom, but just a slight pressure. They may experience upper body discomfort in the stomach, back, arm, neck, or even throat. Women are also more likely to suffer from nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and back or jaw pain when having a heart attack. Many times the symptoms are not as clear-cut in women as they are in men. This often leads to women ignoring symptoms or misdiagnosing themselves with the flu or acid reflux.
Women and men cannot afford to ignore heart attack warning signs. The bottom line is if you suspect that you or someone you love is having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. Taking quick action can limit the damage to your heart, not to mention save your life.