It’s easy to miss heart attack symptoms at the initial stages because symptoms show up differently in women than in men. In fact, the top four symptoms are often misdiagnosed. Immediate intervention can mean life or death, so it’s a good idea for all women to be aware of the warning signs of heart attacks.

Symptoms of heart attack in women

Most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Here are the symptoms of heart attack in women:

  • Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Nausea and light-headedness
  • Flu-like symptoms, including chills and cold sweats
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest discomfort (angina): pain, tightness or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back
  • Discomfort in other areas, including pain or discomfort in: one or both arms (especially the left arm), the back, between the shoulder blades, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Extreme fatigue

Symptoms of stroke in women

Strokes are not as common as heart attacks, but can come on without warning. Here are signs that a stroke may be occurring:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

It’s worth noting that in some women symptoms of heart problems, like palpitations, chills or faintness, may actually be symptoms of perimenopause. However, if you are experiencing these symptoms, you should see your healthcare practitioner.

Symptoms of inflammation

Heart disease often occurs along with inflammation. Monitoring any inflammation symptoms you might have is a helpful way to assess your risk of heart attack or stroke. Here are some of the symptoms to look for (for more information read our articles on inflammation):

  • Elevated levels of CRP, homocysteine, or LDL
  • High blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance or diabetes
  • Joint pain or arthritis
  • Headaches
  • GI distress, bloating, constipation/diarrhea
  • Ulcer/heartburn
  • Food and other allergies/sensitivities
  • Chronic respiratory difficulties, asthma, or bronchitis
  • Dry, itchy skin, rash, psoriasis or eczema
  • Weight gain/obesity
  • Fever or chronic infection
  • Other autoimmune diseases

Resources

To learn more about the underlying causes of heart disease, see our article on risk factors for heart disease.

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