7 Hidden Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
Poor Sleep? Heartburn? It Might Be a Sign of Something More Serious
7 Surprising Symptoms
You know the classic Hollywood image of a heart attack: A man clutches his chest and falls to the ground. But a heart attack typically looks far subtler in a woman, with a constellation of symptoms -- including fatigue, heartburn, indigestion, sudden dizziness, and troubled sleep -- that develop over hours, days, or even weeks. It's tempting to write off these signs as "nothing, really," but the more of them you have, the more likely you're suffering a heart attack. If you suspect you're having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
Plagued by Fatigue?
Fatigue is a common complaint, and one that may indicate you're missing out on sleep, fighting a virus, overextending yourself, or experiencing a side effect due to medication. Unusual or extreme fatigue, however, may also be an early heart attack symptom or a warning sign of heart disease. In one study, more than 70% of the women surveyed experienced marked fatigue in the days or weeks prior to their heart attacks.
It's not unusual to feel tired due to lack of sleep or a demanding week or month, but take notice of any unusual or prolonged disturbance in your sleep patterns. A recent study revealed that almost half of the women who had recently suffered a heart attack also experienced sleep disturbances in the days or weeks leading up to their attacks.
Shortness of Breath
Having trouble taking a deep breath but don't think you have asthma? Unexplained, severe shortness of breath during normal daily activities is one of the most common early heart attack symptoms in women, as is coughing.
Heartburn and Indigestion
When it comes to heartburn, a rich meal isn't always to blame. Nearly 40% of women who have had a heart attack say they experienced heartburn or indigestion shortly before the attack. Heart attack symptoms in women may also include unexplained nausea or vomiting. Women are twice as likely as men to experience gastrointestinal problems when having a heart attack.
More than one-third of women experience unexplained anxiety as an early heart attack symptom. Yep, a heart attack can mimic a panic attack. Unfortunately, this can delay lifesaving treatment. Feeling anxious for no reason at all? Call for help, pronto.
Although sudden chest pain is considered a classic heart attack symptom, only about 30% of women report having chest pain. Women also report pain or discomfort in other areas of the body before or during a heart attack. Pressure, tightness, aching, or burning in your upper back, neck, shoulders, and arms -- or even in your jaw or throat -- can indicate a heart attack. Women have also described their chest pain as sharpness, fullness, or tingling.
Dizziness and Sweating
Nearly 40% of women suffering a heart attack say they feel dizzy or light-headed. Another 40% also break out in a cold sweat. It's easy to write off both as symptoms of menopause, but sudden dizziness can also be a symptom of stroke, so check with your doctor to be safe.
Know Your Heart Disease Risks
How do you know if your symptoms signal a heart attack? Get into the habit of noting your typical aches and pains and your normal reactions to foods and activities so you can recognize when something is truly amiss. If you have heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, a smoking habit, or a sedentary lifestyle, be especially careful about monitoring how you feel. Alert your doctor if you experience unusual fatigue, changes in your sleep habits, or other subtle heart attack symptoms.