Heart Attack Symptoms in Women 

Heart attacks occur when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked by a buildup of plaque in coronary arteries. The initial cause is often due to certain risk factors, like being a heavy smoker, living a high-stress lifestyle, or being excessively overweight. But others can also be at high risk for heart attack, especially if there is a family history of it.

Q] What are the common symptoms of heart attack?

A] They are:

Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Q] What are symptoms women might have more often than men?

A] Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Q] Why is this?

A] Women may have more subtle symptoms than the obvious crushing chest pain most often associated with heart attacks. That’s because they tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries, but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease.

Q] What should someone do if they experience any of these heart attack symptoms?

A] It’s easy to tell yourself that it can’t be happening to you, but that just wastes time. If you or a loved one seems to be having any heart attack signs or symptoms, you should:

Call for help immediately. Dial 9-1-1! Make sure to follow the operator’s instructions so you will get help right away.

Try to stay as calm as possible and take deep, slow breaths while you wait for the
emergency responders.

Do not drive yourself. Have someone else drive you to the hospital unless you have absolutely no other choice.

Q: What happens to my heart over time if I don’t go to the hospital when I might be experiencing the signs or symptoms of a heart attack?

A] Many women show up in emergency rooms after much heart damage has already occurred, because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack. Your heart and arteries will be damaged over time if you do not go to the hospital, and you may have many more problems as you age. Even if your symptoms are not “bad,” you should be checked out — it is better to be safe than sorry. The emergency department team will determine whether it is a heart attack or something that is not life threatening, like heartburn.

Visit parrishhealthcare.com and learn more from the experts at Parrish Healthcare Cardiovascular.

You’re invited to meet Biju Mathews, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services at Parrish Medical Center.

Tuesday, Feb. 13, at La Cita Country Club in Titusville, 5-7:30 p.m. 

The event is free, but seating is limited. To reserve yours, visit parrishhealthcare.com/events, or call 321-268-6110.