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Signs and symptoms of heart trouble

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canadians but the leading cause of death in Canadian women.

woman holding heart

5 symptoms
to watch for

Because women tend to experience different and more subtle symptoms than men who have heart disease, it’s important to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of heart disease to know when to seek medical help.


Pain is the most common symptom of heart trouble and occurs in both men and women. The pain might be felt as fullness, a squeezing sensation or a burning feeling. Sometimes the pain is mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Women are more likely to experience pain in the back, jaw or neck. It’s important to note that chest pain might not occur in women; they are more likely to experience a less intense achy feeling or a general discomfort in the chest and back.

Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath in women is more often associated with heart trouble. Typically this shortness of breath will occur when there are other, more obvious causes for it, but it will usually not be relieved by rest. Shortness of breath might occur before chest pain or while you’re experiencing chest pain.


According to the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services Office on Women’s Health, over half of women who have a heart attack experience the symptom of fatigue. This includes feeling tired for no reason or in combination with weakness in the muscles even though you haven’t exercised.


Feeling dizzy or lightheaded is a common symptom of heart disease. Typically these feelings come on very suddenly. Dizziness caused by heart trouble usually involves feeling as though you are going to pass out, which is similar to the sensation you get when standing up too quickly.

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The U.S. Department of Human Health and Services Office on Women’s Health reports that women are twice as likely as men to experience nausea and vomiting caused by heart problems. The sensation can also feel similar to that of indigestion.

More on heart health

Heart attacks in women: Protecting yourself
4 Heart health tips for women
5 Natural ways to reduce your blood pressure

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