womenTALK: Blog

Monday, May 18th 2009

Signs of Heart Attack: Different for Women

authored by Sheryl Kraft

When you hear "heart attack" do you generally think "male?" Many people do - and that thinking could account for a few facts: research shows that women go to the hospital on average one full hour later than men do after experiencing a heart attack. And since every minute counts, delaying care may result in poorer outcome for women.

The classic symptoms - like acute pain, tightness, burning and a dull ache in the chest - are not the only ones that clue women in to the fact that they may be having a heart attack.

Here are some symptoms of a heart attack that are more typical for women:

  • shortness of breath

  • nausea or vomiting

  • dizziness

  • anxiety

  • back or jaw pain

  • pressure-like chest pain between the breasts

  • rapid heartbeats or palpitations

  • unusual tiredness
And it's not only women themselves who may mistake or play down the symptoms of a heart attack - it can be medical professionals, as well. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that women with chest pain are less likely than male patients to receive the right therapies en route to the hospital. Women do not get the proven early-intervention therapies (like nitroglycerin and aspirin) as often as male patients do, even though they clearly have the same types of symptoms signaling a heart attack.

So what can you do? Be your own advocate and trust your instincts! Experts suggest that even if you think you're repeating yourself over and over again, be clear about your symptoms. And of course, know your risk factors. Sometimes, because the symptoms are not typical heart attack symptoms, they are interpreted as less severe illnesses or injuries.

If you're wondering about aspirin and which type to keep handy in case of a heart attack or near-attack, it's been found that chewable aspirin is the type that absorbs most readily.

Have you had an experience with having to convince your doctor of a heart attack? Or have you had symptoms that were dismissed as "stress" when you knew there was something real and serious? Sharing your stories can be helpful.


Apr 11, 2011 05:Apr 5 | Harry K. Talmage said

It’s so scary that people

It’s so scary that people don’t pick up on their heart attack symptoms in time to stop the problem. Too many people are not eating right and not living a healthy lifestyle and this is causing increased heart complications. I have known many people who have suffered from such symptoms and I’m really glad there is the possibility of future benefits. Science is so amazing and I’m not sure what we would do without it. Because of people like Nenad Bursac, we have hope for the future and for our loved ones that they will not have to suffer the same things we have had to. I hope and pray that one day it will become possible to build a heart. I know that many people don’t agree with stem cell research but this kind of research is for the better good and I don’t see any harm in it.

Feb 10, 2011 08:Feb 8 | Kain said

Thanks for this nice

Thanks for this nice information!!

Apr 10, 2010 20:Apr 8 | Ann Marquis said


My question is related to heart health and cholesterol. I take Zetia because I have high HDL and low LDL. I have asked this question online several times and cannot get an answere because, I think, I am asking about a name Brand drug. Research has shown that Zetia effectively reduces cholesterol, however, there is no evidence that it helps reduce plaque in arteries. If it does not reduce plaque, should I be taking it?
Thank you.

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