Ask the Expert: Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms

Women are more likely than men to have atypical heart attack symptoms. Some women do not have chest pain at all. They may notice more subtle types of discomfort. Women’s heart attack symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest, jaw, shoulder, neck, or back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • A cold sweat

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially with exertion, call 911 immediately.

Unfortunately, women are more likely to wait to get help, allowing more damage to be done to the heart. This is partly because many people are not aware of women’s heart attack symptoms, which can be mistaken for other illnesses or the effects of stress.

But it’s also because women are so used to thinking of everyone else first, before ourselves. When we feel these symptoms, we continue multitasking and thinking of all the things we need to do—call the babysitter, the workplace, the petsitter—before we go to the emergency room to get help. And during this time period, more damage is being done.

I tell women to take care of their tribe. An important part of that is knowing the symptoms of a heart attack, beyond the typical chest pain. This helps us to take care of ourselves and those around us.

Author
Barbara Hutchinson_opt
By Barbara A. Hutchinson, MD, a cardiologist at Chesapeake Cardiac Care in Annapolis. To reach her, call 410-573-9805.

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