What Women Need to Know About Subtle Heart Attack Symptoms

Heart disease is the cause of about one in every three deaths in the United States. It’s the leading cause of death for men and women, yet it’s a common misconception that men are at greater risk for heart problems than women.

Many people assume that only older individuals, particular older men, are at risk for heart attack. But if your heart health is compromised, a heart attack can happen at any age and to either sex.

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain for both women and men. But women are more likely to suffer a heart attack with more subtle symptoms, which makes recognizing a heart attack more difficult — unless you know what to look for. 

At NJ Cardiovascular Institute, our team is here to help you understand the most common signs of heart attacks in women. We regularly diagnose and treat heart disease to help women of all ages live longer, healthier lives. 

Heart attack symptoms go beyond chest pain

Portrayals in movies and TV shows often make heart attacks look like sudden, crushing chest pain. While chest discomfort, pressure, or pain are common symptoms of heart attack, they aren’t the only ones.

Women are more likely than men to have more subtle heart attack symptoms that may be unrelated to the chest. You could be having a heart attack if you experience pain in your:

Heart attack symptoms unrelated to physical pain include:

Symptoms can be vague, and many women brush them off because they’re not widely known as signs of a heart attack. Learning to recognize the more subtle symptoms can help you identify a cardiac event sooner before permanent damage occurs.

Symptoms can last for days

Since many symptoms of a heart attack in women don’t include chest pain, they’re often overlooked. Unusual fatigue, nausea, weakness, and other signs may be mistaken for illnesses such as the flu.  

Vague symptoms make heart attack harder to identify, but women are also more likely to dismiss or minimize their symptoms in comparison to men. In fact, one study found that women waited 54 hours to seek treatment for heart attack symptoms, compared to men who waited just 16 hours. 

If you think you or a loved one is suffering a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Follow the operator’s instructions and try to take slow, deep breaths until help arrives. Seeking treatment as early as possible increases your chances of a full recovery.

Understand your risk of heart disease

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women and men. But both heart attacks and heart disease can appear differently in women than in men. This disparity means that women are more likely to have undiagnosed heart conditions, and they may not even know when they’re at risk for heart attack.

If you’re a woman, it’s important to educate yourself about your heart health. Risk factors that increase your chances of heart disease and heart attack include:

Heart disease is common, but it’s preventable in many cases. Our team is dedicated to helping you strengthen your heart and live your healthiest life. 

We partner with you, evaluating your medical history, family history, and current condition to propose a heart-healthy plan that’s right for you. Managing pre-existing conditions and making a range of healthy lifestyle choices can make a big difference for your heart and help reduce your risk of heart attack. 

Trust your heart health to our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute. To learn more about the risks of heart disease and how to spot a heart attack, book an appointment at one of our offices in Newark, Secaucus, or Paramus, New Jersey. Use the online scheduler or give us a call.

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