Terrifying Heart Attack Symptoms Women Don’t Know They’re Having

Heart disease kills more American women and men every year than any other disease. Thousands of people live with heart conditions and don’t even know they have them. Heart attacks, just one of many consequences of underlying health problems, can affect anyone of any race, ethnicity, or gender. Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person, especially in women.

Many women having a heart attack don’t know it. They don’t experience chest discomfort or pain in their arms, so they write their symptoms off as something minor. Know all the signs — and act fast if you even speculate you might be having one.

Only 27% of people surveyed are aware of all heart attack symptoms

young african american businesswoman having heart attack or chest pain

Chest pain isn’t the only warning sign. | iStock.com/michaeljung

Unfortunately, heart attacks aren’t uncommon among U.S. adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack every single year. Some of them have already had one before.

It’s estimated that 47% of all cardiac deaths happen outside of hospitals. You might know the most common warning sign — chest pain — but there are many other heart attack signs you should be aware of.

Next: It’s more than just nerves.


Side view of sick woman having coffee

Nausea is another symptom. | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

Don’t mistake unexplained nausea for a stomach bug or even something as minor as anxiety. Even if you don’t experience vomiting along with it, feeling nauseous could signal your heart is in serious trouble.

Next: It’s not uncommon to feel pain in unexpected places.

Jaw or back pain

Young Asian woman got back pain

Keep an eye on how your body feels. | iStock.com/halfbottle

Not all women who have a heart attack experience chest pain, or even pain in one or both of their arms. Many experience pain located in their backs or jaws. While the locations of these types of pain might seem unrelated, they shouldn’t be ignored.

Next: Unexplained exhaustion is no joke.


Young stressed woman

Extreme fatigue may be another sign. | iStock.com/fizkes

Sudden onset exhaustion — especially if it doesn’t usually happen to you — could mean your heart is struggling to keep you alive.

Blockages in your coronary arteries, the arteries that carry blood to your heart, makes it impossible for the muscle to pump oxygen to other parts of your body like it’s supposed to. This is why you may suddenly feel exhausted for no noticeable reason.

Next: You’re not moving around — but this symptom turns up anyway.


Woman with sweating under armpit in yellow dress

Just another way your body may be telling you something’s wrong. | iStock.com/andriano_cz

If you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded, or suddenly break into a cold sweat, your heart could be struggling. This is a much more common and well-known symptom — it gets a lot of people to the hospital who may not have gone otherwise. It’s not a hot flash. You’re not just out of shape.

Next: This lesser-known warning sign should never be ignored.

Stomach pain or discomfort

Woman having stomach pain

Don’t push this concern aside. | iStock.com/Nikodash

It’s very easy to ignore unfavorable symptoms of digestion issues. You might immediately wonder what you could have eaten to trigger a stomach ache. It could be one symptom of something much more serious. Women are more likely than men to experience more subtle heart attack symptoms like heartburn or indigestion. Keep tabs on any other symptoms — don’t just blame last night’s dinner.

Next: Feeling winded? Take it seriously.

Trouble breathing

Excitable child and tired mother consulting ADHD specialist

Do you have to catch your breath often? | iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Can’t catch your breath — even if you’re just sitting down? Shortness of breath, even without chest discomfort or pain, is an important warning sign that you might be having a heart attack.

There are many reasons you might find breathing more difficult than usual, but if you have any of the above symptoms along with it, don’t wait. The faster a doctor can clear out any blockages and get your heart functioning normally again, the more likely you’ll make a full recovery.

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