Signs of Heart Attack Are Different in Men and Women

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Every 30-40 seconds someone in the United States has a heart attack. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 735,000 people suffer heart attacks every year. Many did not know or ignored the signs. Don’t be one of these people.

How To Know if You’re Having a Heart Attack

Most people are aware they should seek emergency medical attention immediately if they experience classic heart attack symptoms like intense pain in the center of the chest or pain that radiates down the left arm. However, other, not so well-known symptoms also require action.

Despite the customary abruptness of an actual heart attack, symptoms can begin up to a month in advance. For most people, signs are present within 24 hours. Talk to your doctor if you notice a sudden decrease in your tolerance for exercise, shortness of breath or chest pain that’s unusual or new.

Many times my patients tell me they experience a new symptom, or experience it more intensely than ever before. In men the most common symptoms of heart attack are pain in the chest and arm.

Women’s Symptoms Are Different

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Feelings of heartburn
  • Feeling winded easily or short of breath
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Jaw pain
  • Back pain
  • Nausea

Diabetes and Cultural Connections

Young women with type-2 diabetes have 4-5 times the risk for heart attack than men. And African-American and Hispanic women are especially at risk. According to the American Heart Association, 49% of African-American women over the age of 20 have heart disease. And Hispanic women tend to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic women.

4 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

By following these four healthy lifestyle tips recommended by the American Heart Association, you can help reduce your risk of heart attack, and all types of cardiovascular disease:

  • Eat healthy. Fill your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry, fish, and nuts. Limit salt, red meat, saturated and trans fats, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Stay active. Every week, strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by following the suggestions above and learning more about how many calories you should be consuming based on your age, gender, and level of physical activity.
  • Don’t smoke...and if you do smoke, stop. Also, avoid secondhand smoke. LG Health offers many free resources to help people quit using tobacco.
author name

Rahul R. Jhaveri, MD

Rahul R. Jhaveri, MD, FACC, FSCAI, RPVI, is an interventional cardiologist with The Heart Group. Dr. Jhaveri’s areas of special expertise include echocardiology and vascular interpretation.

Education: Medical School–Columbia University; Internship & residency–Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School; Fellowship–New York University.

Call: 717-544-8300

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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