Understanding Heart Attack Symptoms and Risk Factors in Women

Understanding Heart Attack Symptoms and Risk Factors in Women

Jan 01, 2021

A heart attack is a severe health condition that requires immediate care. Initially, men were believed to at higher risk of developing complications due to heart attacks. However, the disease can affect both genders equally.

The signs and symptoms might vary from men to women. Therefore, knowing the symptoms and how women and heart disease relate can help initiate a fast response and save lives.  Women are likely to display silent signs, which might increase the risk of complications and sometimes fatalities since they are not easily noticeable.

Unlike in males, the female body’s biology creates unique risk factors for developing heart attacks and other diseases that increase complications such as polycystic ovary syndrome.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attack in Women?

Most of the time, the symptoms of a heart attack appear suddenly. However, a study shows that women’s symptoms tend to occur earlier, even weeks before the first heart attack episode.

Some of the symptoms might be constant, while others come and go. Therefore, it is advisable to watch out for the signs, seek medical care, and possibly stop the heart attack. Some of the pre-heart attack symptoms in females include:

Chest Pains

Chest pains are a common symptom among men and women. The chest pain or discomfort might be described by:

  • Pressure
  • Tightness
  • Aching and squeezing on the chest

However, women can still experience a heart attack without chest pains.


Unusual fatigue that prevails for some weeks might be a sign of a possible heart attack. However, they might experience fatigue just before the heart attack. Even simple tasks that don’t require heavy-lifting or exerting pressure might cause fatigue in women at risk of a possible heart attack.

Body Weakness

Feel weak is an acute symptom of a heart attack in women. Body weakness might be followed by symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Dizziness
  • Sometimes they might faint

Difficulties Breathing

Shortness of breath accompanied by chest pains might be a sign of a heart attack. Some women might experience shortness of breath when lying down and feel relief when they sit up.

Profuse Sweating

Profuse sweating without a known cause might be a sign of a heart attack. Women might also feel clammy and cold before a heart attack.

Pain on the Upper Body

Pain on the upper body that is not attributed to any nerve or muscle can be a sign of a possible heart attack. You might experience pain in the neck, jaws, upper back, and arms. Initially, the pain starts on one part of the body and spread to other regions.

Disturbances During Sleep

Almost half of the women who have been victims of heart attack experience sleeping difficulties two weeks before the episode. The sleep disturbances involve:

  • Difficulties getting sleep
  • Tiredness when they wake up
  • Unusual waking up at night

Stomach issues

Before a heart attack, women might experience pain or pressure around the abdomen. Some of the digestive issues that accompany a heart attack include nausea, vomiting, and indigestion.

Risk Factors

Some of the factors that might increase the risk of heart disease in women include:

  • Women, especially during menopause, are at higher risk of a heart attack due to dropping levels of estrogen.
  • Family health history. Heart conditions can be hereditary. Therefore, you might be at risk of a heart attack.
  • Health status. Healthmarkers such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels in the blood can increase heart attack risk in both women and men.
  • Poor lifestyle choices can lead to some conditions such as obesity, which can be a heart attack risk factor. Also, drug abuse such as cocaine and amphetamines can increase the risk of a heart attack.

When Should I Visit an Emergency Room Near Me?

A heart attack can be life-threatening. Therefore, it is advisable to seek emergency medical care near you in case of an episode of a heart attack. Some of the warning signs that might compel  you to visit an emergency room near you include:

  • Unusual fatigue and body weakness
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Pain on the upper body parts
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained sweating and anxiety

For emergency medical care, you can consider visiting us at Express ER in Harker Heights.

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