A Woman's Heart Is Different
Women develop symptoms of heart disease an average of 10 years later than men.
When women develop coronary artery disease, they report symptoms prior to having a cardiac event, although these are not typical "heart" symptoms. In a multi-center study of 515 women who had an acute heart attack (MI), the most frequently reported symptoms were unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety. The majority of women (78 percent) reported at least one symptom for more than one month before their heart attack. Only 30 percent reported chest discomfort, which was described as an aching, tightness, pressure, sharpness, burning, fullness or tingling.
If you have these symptoms, you should contact your doctor for a full evaluation. This is even more important if you have risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. A full risk factor evaluation, combined with symptoms and an exam, will help the doctor know your risk for future events and guide additional testing.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Women are less likely to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and seek treatment right away. Women tend to have heart attacks about 10 years later than men do 1. By learning and recognizing the symptoms, women can become more assertive in their treatment.
The most common symptoms of heart attack in women are:
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual fatigue
- Cold sweat
- Pain or pressure in the back or high chest
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms
- Discomfort may be described as pressure, ache, or tightness; may come and go
- A burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen
- Irregular heartbeat
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