A heart attack is a blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle that prevents the heart from getting enough oxygen and can cause heart muscle to die. Sometimes heart attacks are caused by coronary heart/artery disease (when plaque builds up in the arteries), but they can also be caused by sudden spasms in the arteries. The heart is responsible for pumping blood to the rest of the body, so heart attacks can have extremely serious effects, including heart failure and death.
This is why it’s so important to understand the symptoms of a heart attack. Although everyone can certainly experience pain or discomfort in the chest during heart attacks, women are more likely than men to experience the other symptoms of heart attacks, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms
- Pain or discomfort in the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
Not everyone is aware of the differences in symptoms between men and women, and heart attacks are often depicted as sudden, dramatic pain. Because of this, it can be difficult for women to recognize when they’re having heart attacks. A woman experiencing a heart attack might feel no chest pain, only dizziness, pressure on her stomach, and nausea. It’s possible to mistake these symptoms for the flu or another illness, which can prevent women from seeking the immediate treatment they need.
If you experience a combination of these symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency services number immediately. You can lower your risk for heart disease by exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, and, if you smoke, by quitting smoking (especially while you’re pregnant). You can speak with your healthcare provider to learn more about your risk of heart disease and how to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level.
- “Heart Attack Symptoms in Women.” American Heart Association. The American Heart Association. January 10, 2017. Web.
- “What Is a Heart Attack?” National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. June 22, 2015. Web.