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Heart attacks don't just happen to men, but women do tend to experience different symptoms. Recognizing them could make the difference between life and death. Learn more about heart attack symptoms in women and preventative steps you can undertake.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear "heart attack"? You are probably thinking of a middle-aged man who smokes, has high-cholesterol levels and leads a stressful life. Let's look beyond the stereotype. Over 920,000 Americans will have a heart attack this year, and 435,000 of those will be women. Six times more women will die from heart attacks than breast cancer, and heart attacks that happen to women under 50 are twice as likely to be fatal than those that happen to their male peers. 


Are you surprised? Now that you know heart attacks can strike just about anyone, there's another twist that you should be aware of. You've seen how a man complains of chest pain and pain in his left arm only to fall on the ground in the media. Chest pain and pain that radiates to the left arm can indeed be symptoms of a heart attack, but they're not the only ones. In fact, women are more likely to experience different symptoms.

Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack early on may save your life or the life of someone you know, so let's take a fresh look at what you might expect. 

Heart Attack Symptoms In Women

Why are women under 50 much more likely to die from a heart attack than men in the same age group? The reasons are complex. Among them are some that we can fix relatively easily. Because the symptoms of heart attack may differ from the stereotypical symptoms everyone thinks they're familiar with, they may not be recognized. Women, their loved ones, and even doctors may attribute these symptoms to completely different things like the flu or exhaustion. When symptoms don't seem to point to a heart attack, women are also more likely to keep on going rather than seeing a doctor. 

The first thing you can do is to inform yourself about what heart attack symptoms can look like:
  • Pressure in the chest. It may feel like squeezing, fullness, pressure, pain, or discomfort. This sensation may occur anywhere in the chest, but often happens in the center rather than on the left side. It lasts for a while, or may come and go. 
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, in the neck, back, or jaw. 
  • Stomach pain that may feel like heartburn. 
  • Shortness of breath. 
  • Cold sweat, nausea, feeling light-headed, and fatigue.

It is important to keep in mind that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Reacting quickly saves lives. If you or anyone you know has chest pain — particularly in combination with some or all of the other symptoms — don't brush it off as "nothing". Call the emergency services. Don't wait longer than five minutes. 

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