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The Difference in Heart Attacks: Men Versus Women

Did you know there is a difference between male and female heart attacks? More men experience heart attacks than women and men also experience heart attacks at an earlier age in life than women. After menopause, the risk of heart attacks increases for women.

How Are Symptoms of a Heart Attack Different for Females and Males?

The main cause of a heart attack is coronary artery disease. When the blood flow that carries oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off, a heart attack can occur. The more time that passes without getting treatment to restore the blood flow, the greater the heart muscle damage.

While 50% of men may have no heart attack symptoms at all, women may not feel any chest pressure as a symptom of heart attack. Nausea or vomiting may be present in women and can be confused with acid reflux or the flu making it more difficult to recognize a woman’s heart attack than in a man.

According to the American Heart Association, studies show that one of every three deaths in the United States is related to cardiovascular disease. The infographic here shows steps you can take to correct habits that could lead to heart attacks.

Major Symptoms of a Heart Attack for Both Men and Women.

  • Discomfort or pain in the chest. Most heart attacks will be felt in the center or left side of the chest and can last for more than a few minutes. The discomfort may come and go and feels like a pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Weakness, light-headedness. Fainting and breaking out in a cold sweat are also symptoms.
  • Jaw, neck or back pain and discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath. This symptom may be accompanied by chest discomfort.

What Are the First Signs of a Heart Attack in a Woman?

Heart disease is sometimes considered a man’s disease, but almost as many women as men die each year of heart disease in the United States. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S resulting in the deaths of 299,578 women in 2017—or about one in every five female deaths.

The most common heart attack symptom for both men and women is chest pain or uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or pain in the center of your chest. It is seldom as impactful as you might imagine, and it can feel like heartburn that comes on over time. Women often describe it as a tightness in the chest.

Women are more likely than men to have symptoms unrelated to chest pain. The Mayo Clinic reports some in fact may experience no signs of a heart attack at all, while others may have these symptoms:

  • Pain in the neck, jaw or throat
  • Angina – a dull, heavy or sharp chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain in the upper abdomen, both arms, jaw, stomach or back

Women can also suffer these symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

Women are more likely to have symptoms when they are resting or even asleep. Not always recognizing their heart attack signals, women tend to go to emergency rooms after the heart damage has occurred.

Finally, heart diseases can be silent and go undiagnosed until you have emergencies like a heart attack, arrhythmia, or heart failure. These symptoms should alert you to call 9-1-1 immediately, but do not drive yourself to the hospital emergency room.

At Meridian Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, we’re committed to providing the highest quality skilled nursing and therapy for the best cardiac outcomes. Our cardiac care is administered by a team of physicians, nurses and therapy specialists who adhere to individualized recovery and rehabilitation plans. To get more information about our cardiac health services or other senior living information, call us at 316-942-8471.