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Weight-Loss Software > Signs of Heart Attack Women

Signs of Heart Attack, Women's

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

Tragically, signs of heart attack, women’s, are often overlooked because they differ from those in men. That’s largely why heart disease kills 300,000 American women each year.

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If you see a woman exhibiting any of the signs listed below, remember that every minute counts. A heart attack occurs when oxygen-rich blood is unable to reach part of the heart, usually because a clot has blocked an artery. Just as being short of breath makes it impossible for you to run faster, a shortage of oxygen limits your heart’s power to pump blood—leading to an even greater oxygen deficit. To stop this runaway situation, the heart may try to beat faster to achieve higher blood flow. Like an engine forced to rev beyond its maximum, however, the heart will soon break its natural rhythm (or “fibrillate”) and stop pumping altogether. Death follows in minutes.

Emergency Steps in a Heart Attack

If you see a woman exhibiting signs of heart attack, take these steps immediately:

1. Call 911. This is almost always better than driving her to the emergency room. Modern ambulance crews can administer oxygen, defibrillation, and other life-saving measures on the spot.

2. Give her an aspirin. This thins the blood, making it easier to pump.

3. Have her lie down and (as much as possible) relax. Physical exertion can worsen a woman’s heart attack by increasing the body’s demand for oxygen.

Nine Signs of Heart Attack, Women’s

(Listed in descending order of likelihood and importance)

  1. Chest discomfort lasting more than a few minutes. Usually in the center of the chest, this may be a crushing pain, as often depicted in movies. Especially in women, however, it can instead be a feeling of pressure or fullness.

  2. Upper-body discomfort, especially in the neck, jaw, back, stomach, or one or both arms. In women more so than men, this sign of heart attack may occur without chest discomfort.

  3. Shortness of breath. Again, this sign may occur without chest pain, and is more common in women’s heart attacks than men’s.

  4. Unusual fatigue. Victims sometimes report feeling “completely powerless” or “limp as a dishrag.”

  5. Nausea or vomiting. Like fatigue and shortness of breath, this sign is more often seen in women’s heart attacks than men’s.

  6. Cold sweat. Victims commonly report being “drenched.”

  7. Pallor. Victims often look “white as a sheet” or “pale as death.”

  8. Dizziness or lightheadedness. This is a sign of poor oxygenation of the brain.

  9. Feelings of doom or extreme helplessness.

These aren’t the only signs of heart attack, women’s. Some victims report powerful toothaches, for example. But secondary signs like these are usually accompanied by some or all of the signs listed above.


*Terry Dunkle is a 30-year veteran medical journalist who serves as CEO and chief editor at DietPower, Inc., a leading developer of weight-loss software and medical news and features.

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Last modified September 8, 2010

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