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6 Heart attack symptoms that are different in women

Nadine Avola

by

Beauty

Nadine is a film/TV actress, appearing in the new Vacation movie this summer. She's also been in Sydney White, Guiding Light, and Game On — an Italian Disney TV series.

The actual heart attack symptoms women report have nothing to do with chest pain

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer for American men and women, and WebMD reports that it accounts for "40 percent of all U.S. deaths."

When we think of someone having a heart attack, we picture them gripping their chest, wincing in pain and sweating profusely — and that may be accurate for men. But, ladies, don't be fooled: Research shows that many women experience no chest pain at all.

The actual heart attack symptoms women report have nothing to do with chest pain
Image: Terese Condella

That's right. In a study by the National Institutes of Health, 43 percent of the 515 women surveyed reported having no chest pain during or prior to the heart attack.

Traditionally, pain in the chest cavity — described like an elephant sitting on your chest — has been the No. 1 predictor of attack, along with shortness of breath, fatigue and pain in your left arm. But, unfortunately, symptoms in women can be more subtle.

More: 8 Ways to prevent a heart attack

Heart attack symptoms that are more common in women:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Back, neck or jaw pain
  • Indigestion
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Anxiety

Heart attack symptoms that are more common in men:

  • Weakness
  • Cold sweat
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
The actual heart attack symptoms women report have nothing to do with chest pain
Image: Terese Condella/SheKnows

1. Extreme fatigue

In the NIH study, "unusual fatigue" was reported by 70 percent of the women in the sample. This tiredness can creep up days or weeks before the actual attack.

2. Sleep disturbance

If you aren't sleeping well at night, this could be a forewarning. The NIH found that 48 percent of the women reported sleep disturbance as a symptom prior to their heart attacks.

3. Back, neck or jaw pain

Instead of an obvious chest pain, we may experience pain in the jaw, neck, or lower or upper back. WebMD notes, "The pain can be gradual or sudden, and it may wax and wane before becoming intense. If you're asleep, it may wake you up."

More: 5 Ways to cut your heart disease risk — right now

4. Indigestion

Heart failure can cause abdominal swelling, which can show up as indigestion, nausea, lack of appetite and vomiting. In the NIH study, 39 percent of women reported these symptoms.

5. Flu-like symptoms

Coughing, sweating and lightheadedness are more than just signs of the flu itself. If you notice any of these flu-like symptoms in conjunction with any other previously mentioned indicators, it may be time to get checked by your doctor.

6. Anxiety

Anxiety is a way of life for most Americans in today's society. But, if you notice unusual bouts of stress or feelings of "impending doom," take a minute to breathe. Your anxiety may be trying to tell you something.

The actual heart attack symptoms women report have nothing to do with chest pain
Image: Tiffany Egbert/SheKnows

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