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You've seen it on television a hundred times, a man begins experiencing crushing chest pain. His family and friends rush him to medical care. The physician comes in, sees the man grasping his chest and determines he is indeed having a heart attack. Unfortunately, this image is so ingrained in our collective consciousness that we think all heart attack symptoms are the same. They are not.

For women, the signs of a heart attack are not predictable. National Institutes of Health research indicates that women often experience new or different physical symptoms as much as a month or more before having the heart attack. In fact, of the women participating in the research project and confirmed to have had a heart attack, fewer than 30 percent reported having chest pain or discomfort prior to their heart attacks, and 43 percent reported having no chest pain at all.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

With more women dying of heart disease each year than men, and with more women dying of heart disease each year than all cancers combined, it is important to know just how different a woman's heart attack symptoms might be.

Significant symptoms prior to heart attack include:

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion
  • Anxiety, feelings of impending doom or unusual nervousness

Significant symptoms during heart attack include:

  • Shortness of breath and/or inability to catch your breath when waking up
  • Weakness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Cold sweat, clammy sweat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Chest pain, could also include back pain and/or deep aching and throbbing in one or both arms
  • Fluttering or rapid heartbeats, palpitations
  • Feeling of heaviness, such as pressure-like chest pain between the breasts that may radiate to the left arm or shoulder