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Heart Attacks in Women

Having a heart attack causes damage to your heart muscle, which can lead to potentially life threatening complications. It is important to remember that everyone (male or female) experiences different heart attack symptoms. The symptoms of a subsequent heart attack may be different from the first.

The most common heart attack symptom, in both men and women, is some type of chest pain, pressure or discomfort. But chest pain is not always the most noticeable symptom, especially in women. Women are more likely than men to experience heart attack symptoms without chest discomfort. If they do have tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest, this discomfort may not always be severe or even the most noticeable symptom.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be having a heart attack:

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  • tightness, pressure, discomfort or pain in the center of your chest, that may spread to your arm

  • upper back, shoulder, jaw or throat discomfort or pain

  • nausea, vomiting, indigestion, heart-burn or gas-like pain

  • sweating

  • lightheadedness

  • shortness of breath/difficulty breathing

  • unusual fatigue for days or sudden fatigue

  • unexplained anxiety

  • unexplained sleep disturbances

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms:

Do not wait to call for help. Call for an ambulanceCall 811 for T&T's ambulance service.

Make sure to follow the operator’s instructions.

Early treatment can decrease the potential damage to your heart. Even if you're not sure if something is wrong, you should get to a hospital if you experience symptoms of a heart attack. 

Women may have some of the common symptoms, but their pain may be more diffused, spreading to the shoulders, neck, arms, abdomen and back. Women may experience pain more like indigestion and the pain may not be consistent. There may not be pain but rather, unexplained anxiety, nausea, dizziness, palpitations and cold sweat. Heart attacks in women may be preceded by unexplained fatigue.


Compared with men, women tend to have symptoms more often when resting, doing regular daily activities, or even when asleep. Women also tend to have more severe first heart attacks that more frequently lead to death, compared to men.

Additionally, research suggests:

  • women having a heart attack may delay seeking medical assistance longer than men simply because they don't recognise the symptoms

  • a woman is more likely than a man to receive the wrong initial diagnosis for a heart attack 

  • women may be less likely than men to receive a number of potentially life saving treatments in a timely way 

  • following a heart attack women may be less likely to be prescribed medications to help prevent a second heart attack

"Just a Little Heart Attack"

The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women campaign created this short film, "Just a Little Heart Attack," to educate women about the realities of heart disease and encourage them to put their health first and take care of their heart.

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