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Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Even though heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women, many women aren’t aware of their heart attack risk, brushing off their symptoms and delaying critical treatment. Learning to recognize the signs of a heart attack in women prepares you to more effectively seek immediate medical care when necessary. Getting treatment quickly is crucial for newer, lifesaving techniques to work.

If you are unsure of your heart disease risk, take our heart risk assessment and then schedule an appointment with your SSM Health provider to discuss the results, as well as what you can do to keep your heart healthy.

Signs of Heart Attack in Women

Heart attack symptoms in women do not present the same as they do in men - and they aren’t always obvious. For example, not all women experience chest pain or discomfort. Sometimes, the only symptoms present are shortness of breath, nausea, shoulder pain, weakness and fatigue. Many women may just experience a cold sweat and dizziness.

However, some of the more “classic” symptoms can be experienced by both men and women:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back
  • Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea
  • A feeling of indigestion

Women can also experience these symptoms:

  • Unusual chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain
  • Vomiting or dizziness
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue
  • Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness

These variations in symptoms are why heart attacks can be difficult to diagnose in women. If you think you may be having a heart attack, don’t dismiss your instincts. Seek prompt medical attention!

What to do if You Experience Heart Attack Symptoms




The emergency medical services (EMS) team at your local SSM Health hospital can begin treatment right away - much sooner than if you arrived at the hospital by car. Newer treatments can stop a heart attack in its tracks if given soon enough. The EMS team is also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped, which saves hundreds of lives each year. By arriving by ambulance, you’ll also get faster treatment upon your arrival at the hospital.

As a precaution, do not drive! Driving is extremely hazardous. Some individuals have experienced worsening symptoms or even blacked out on the way to the emergency room.

Speak Up to Save Your Life

Sometimes heart attack symptoms are not clear or may feel like indigestion or anxiety. If you find yourself in an ambulance or emergency room, don’t be afraid to say “I think I’m having a heart attack.” Proper diagnosis is key, starting with a blood test and EKG. Speaking up could save your life.

Our heart and vascular care team understands the unique needs of women. Find an SSM Health location near you for the most progressive care from the most experienced heart team in the region.

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