Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 19, 2013

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Heart_attackChest pain or discomfort has long been seen as the most common early warning sign of a heart attack.  But recent research has raised questions about whether this holds true for women.  A new study looked at the available evidence and concluded that chest pain is the most common sign of heart attack for most women.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among U.S. women.  It affects 1 in 10 females over age 18.  In light of the recent uncertainty about heart attack symptoms in women, NIH-funded researchers examined 69 studies published over 35 years.  The studies ranged from large clinical trials to smaller studies and patient interviews.

Taken together, the studies showed that the majority of women—two-thirds to three-quarters—had chest discomfort with heart attack.  In addition, the authors found that women seem to report a wider range of symptoms than men.  These include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite and dizziness.

Although chest pain may be the most common sign of heart attack for most women, experts recommend that any new symptoms be promptly evaluated.  Surveys suggest that more women are now aware that heart disease is their leading killer, but many still don’t take their risk of heart disease personally and seriously.

Heart Attack Signs

Fast action can save lives. Everyone should know these warning signs of a heart attack:

  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body.  Can include one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath often comes along with chest discomfort, but it also can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

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