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Signs and symptoms of heart attack

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

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If you are experiencing symptoms, seek medical attention immediately

Classic symptoms of a heart attack that both men and women can experience:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back
  • Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea
  • A feeling of indigestion

Call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Woman clutching chest in pain

Symptoms of heart attack in women

While most women are aware of their risk for breast cancer, many don’t realize a larger threat is beating inside their chests - heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of American women, killing more women than all cancers combined. In fact, more women die of heart disease each year than men. 

Heart attack symptoms in women do not present the same as they do in men - and they aren’t always obvious. For example, not all women experience chest pain or discomfort. 

Sometimes, the only symptoms present are:

  • unusual chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea or vomiting
  • shoulder pain
  • unexplained anxiety
  • palpitations, cold sweat and paleness
  • weakness and fatigue

Many women may just experience a cold sweat and dizziness.

These variations in symptoms are why heart attacks can be difficult to diagnose in women. If you think you may be having a heart attack, don't dismiss your instincts. Seek prompt medical attention immediately!