Heart Attack in Women

Our team sat around the nursing unit the other morning with raised eyebrows as one of our colleagues explained to us that she had indigestion and that she was not having a heart attack. I'm not sure if she was trying to convince us or herself, but she didn't completely succeed. Unfortunately, heart attack symptoms in women are often different than in men and can be mistaken for indigestion.  Women and health care providers also often tend to dismiss the symptoms without recognition of their significance. But it's important to know the symptoms and get them checked out immediately if you experience them.  

The Symptoms of Heart Attack in Women

Some women will experience the central chest pain and pressure that radiates to the jaw and arm that is so hallmark in male heart attacks. But for many women, this pain does not occur.  Often women will complain of lower chest pressure that is similar to indigestion. They may also have nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fainting.  These symptoms can easily be attributed to gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety, depression, or even menopause if the healthcare provider is not acutely aware of the potential for heart attack. 

Heart Disease in Women

It's only been in the last few decades or so that it's become apparent that heart disease is a significant problem for women.  Heart Disease is the leading killer of women in the United States.  If you have any of the above symptoms, it's important to remember that you may be having a heart attack.  Early care is critical in heart attack.  If you are concerned that you may be having a heart attack, don't wait.  Call an ambulance/911 and get care.  The ambulance will have meds and monitors that can help you quickly.  If you refuse to call the ambulance, have someone else drive you to the emergency department.  Tell the emergency providers that you are concerned about a heart attack.  You'd much rather go home with a diagnosis of indigestion than a missed diagnosis of heart attack!

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