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Symptoms of a heart attack in women vs. men

Heart attack symptoms can show up differently for men and women. Learn how to recognize a heart attack when it happens.

May 10, 2022
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Heart attack symptoms can show up differently for men and women. Learn how to recognize a heart attack when it happens.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), approximately every 40 seconds, someone experiences a heart attack in the U.S. While some heart attack symptoms, like chest pain, are common across the board, other heart attack symptoms can vary between men and women. Women, especially, can experience non‐chest pain symptoms during a heart attack that are less recognizable.

Heart attack symptoms in men

Compared to women, men have a greater chance of experiencing a heart attack and at an earlier stage in life. These are some common male‐specific heart attack symptoms to watch for:

  • Back, neck or jaw pain
  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting or nausea

Heart attack symptoms in women

Even though men are more susceptible to heart attacks, heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women. This can be attributed to heart attack symptoms specific to women that can commonly go unnoticed and delay necessary treatment. Some female‐specific heart attack symptoms that often go unrecognized include:

  • Discomfort in the neck, jaw or arms
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lower back pain
  • Nausea, or flu‐like symptoms

Remember, if you suspect a heart attack is occurring, call 9‐1‐1 right away. A heart attack is a serious medical condition that needs emergency care.

Lifestyle changes to prevent heart risks

Though the thought of you or a loved one experiencing a cardiac event can be frightening, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. To improve your heart health and reduce your risk of a heart attack, try implementing these simple steps recommend by the AHA:

  • Avoid or quit smoking – Smoking can increase the chances of contracting a stroke or heart attack.
  • Drink in moderation – Excessive drinking can raise blood pressure and increase the chances of stroke and other health diseases.
  • Lower high blood pressure – Take recommended medication and shake‐off the desire for salt to reach an optimal blood pressure that's less than 120/80 mmHg.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Try to watch your weight. Obesity can increase the risks of insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Select a heart‐healthy diet – Choose a diet with nutrient‐rich foods and emphasize vegetables, fruits and whole grains to positively impact various controllable heart‐risk factors.
  • Stay active everyday – A minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate‐intensity physical activity can lower your blood pressure, weight and cholesterol.
  • Stress less – Find healthy ways to manage your stress. Studies show stress can enhance the risk factors for stroke and heart diseases.

Talk to your doctor about your heart health. Your doctor can work with you to review your family and medical history and develop a plan to reduce your risk of heart disease and better your overall health.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, it’s important to seek medical care immediately. Find the closest HCA Florida Healthcare emergency room or learn more about our emergency care services here.

Published:
May 10, 2022
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