Heart Attack Symptoms
If you think all heart attacks look like what you see in the movies and on television, with sudden chest-wrenching pain, your couldn’t be more wrong! Actually, less than 5% of heart attacks are like the movies. In fact, most heart attacks begin with more subtle symptoms in both men and women. Furthermore, symptoms differ between men and women.


Men’s Symptoms

  • Chest discomfort or pain: This discomfort or pain can feel like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes. It is possible for this discomfort to come and go.
  • Upper Body Pain: Pain or discomfort may spread beyond your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth and jaw. You may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.
  • Stomach Pain: Pain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.
  • Shortness of Breath: You may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort or you may not experience any chest discomfort.
  • Anxiety: You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you’re having a panic attack for no apparent reason.
  • Lightheadedness: In addition to chest pressure, you may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.
  • Sweating: You may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.

If you have any of these symptoms, part of your heart muscle could be dying due to a lack of blood flow. Do not “tough it out” for more than five minutes. Call 911 or other EMS help and above all, DO NOT DRIVE YOURSELF TO THE HOSPITAL OR CLINIC unless it is absolutely a last resort option!!

As for the women, did you know that forty years ago the conventional wisdom of the day was that only men had heart attacks and women were somehow immune – a very serious misconception! In fact, since 1984 more women than men die of heart disease each year. One challenge, is that symptoms for women can be different from symptoms in men.The most prominent heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest; but, it is not always severe or even the most prominent symptom women can have. Women are more likely than men to have heart atttack symptoms without chest pain or discomfort!

Women’s Symptoms

  • Neck, shoulder, upper back, between the shoulder blades
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain or heartburn
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

The foregoing symptoms, though appearing to be identical to those symptoms in men are more subtle and may be totally lacking in the obvious chest pain or discomfort associated with heart attacks. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries, but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart – a condition named small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease.Far too many women tend to show up in emergency rooms after much heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack!

If you experience these symptoms or think you’re having a heart attack, get emergency medical help immediately. Above all, DO NOT DRIVE YOURSELF to the emergency room unless there are no other options.

Mayo Clinic August, 2011

Comments are closed.