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Heart Health: Differences in Male and Female Heart Attacks Symptoms

By Complete Care Specialist February 08, 2019

Despite ongoing efforts to prioritize heart health, cardiac diseases affect nearly half of all American adults. In women, the statistics are staggering, being the number one killer of women in the U.S., affecting 1 in 3. This could be due, in part, to a more recent discovery that women are more likely to experience different heart attack symptoms than men. While both sexes can prevent and reduce their risk of heart diseases by following the experts recommendations for a heart healthy lifestyle, the reality is that heart disease probably isn’t going away anytime soon. Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack could save you or a loved one's life.

The common symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort, this could feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Lasting more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, or stomach
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort

Men's Heart Attack Symptoms

Men traditionally experience chest pain or discomfort when having a heart attack, with or without the other symptoms. This pain could even feel like an elephant sitting across the chest and may even start on and off again for several minutes. However, it isn’t uncommon for men to experience the other common signs as well.

Women's Heart Attack Symptoms

As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. The difference? Heart attack symptoms in women can get a little tricky. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for a woman experiencing a heart attack to think she may have the flu, acid reflux, or even think it’s a normal part of aging. This is because their symptoms can be very subtle and are more likely to be some of the other common symptoms. Even vomiting and fainting have been reported.  According to Nieca Goldberg, M.D., “women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”

The more subtle nature of these symptoms makes it even more important for a woman to know her risk of heart diseases and be familiar these less famous symptoms.


With the innovations in technology and healthcare, a heart attack doesn’t always carry a death sentence. The key is to be able to recognize the symptoms in yourself or a loved one and act as quickly as possible. Ultimately, you should never ignore these signs that could indicate an underlying heart health issue. If you experience any of them, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.

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