Crushing chest pain is a symptom most associated with a heart attack. While frightening, this pain often acts as a warning sign that a person suffering a heart attack needs to seek immediate medical assistance. However, when women suffer a heart attack, this telltale symptom doesn’t always manifest in the same way as it does in men.
Many women suffering from a heart attack never experience the crushing chest pain that seems to radiate down one arm. While this symptom does occur, it happens much more frequently in men than women, who often experience milder symptoms they can often miss or misinterpret as something other than a heart attack. Confusing the symptoms of a heart attack can lead many women to postpone seeking medical treatment until permanent damage has occurred to the heart.
Delaying treatment is just one of the reasons why heart disease ranks as the leading cause of death among women in the U.S.
For women to recognize a potential heart attack, they need to know the symptoms that most commonly manifest:
By far the most common symptom of heart attack, many women may experience chest pain differently than men. Instead of intense pain, women may experience a sensation similar to a fullness or squeezing. This type of pain can also seem to originate from anywhere in the chest, not just the left side of the body, as is typical for men. Often women describe the chest pain they experience as more of a growing discomfort rather than a sharp, sudden burst of pain.
Arm, Neck, Back, or Jaw Pain
While a woman will still experience body pains when suffering a heart attack, she is more likely to experience discomfort in the back, neck, jaw, or arm than the chest. Because discomfort in these areas of the body is not as closely linked to a heart attack as chest pain, many women may be initially confused as to what they are experiencing. The pain a woman experiences could wax and wan prior to growing in intensity. To play it safe, a woman should immediately report any unexplained pain that originates anywhere above the waist to a health care professional.
People suffering a heart attack can frequently mistake the stomach pain caused by the condition as simple indigestion, heartburn, a stomach ulcer, or a bout with the flu. Additionally, women experiencing a heart attack also report feeling great pressure on their stomach, similar to a heavyweight being placed down on their abdomen.
Nausea, shortness of breath, lightheadedness
If you begin to suddenly experience difficulty breathing without any apparent reason, you could be suffering a heart attack. If you begin to experience shortness of breath, along with feeling lightheaded and nauseous, you need to seek immediate medical treatment. It’s not uncommon for women suffering from a heart attack to feel as if they have just run a marathon or exerted a great deal of physical energy.
Among young women who experience a heart attack, breaking out into a cold sweat is not uncommon. This type of symptom will often feel similar to the type of sweating that occurs due to stress rather than from physical exertion or standing outside on a hot, sunny day. If you don’t typically break out in this type of sweat, and there’s no other reason why you would start to perspire, you need to seek medical treatment.
Another common symptom among women is a sudden feeling of fatigue or muscle weakness. Women suffering from a heart attack have frequently reported feeling suddenly drained of energy, and being unable to move or perform simple tasks such as walking to the bathroom.
While the symptoms women experience while suffering a heart attack vary, you need to call 911 for medical assistance should you experience any of these symptoms together or with chest pain or discomfort. While many people may feel as if they’re overreacting by calling for help without experiencing the classic signs of a heart attack, you should always remain cautious, as it could save your life.