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10 Signs of Heart Trouble Usually Ignored by Women

Many are often overlooked, and knowing the warning signs can make all the difference. 

Oftentimes, the symptoms of a heart attack—especially for a woman—are much more subtle than what you see on TV. "Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure," Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU's Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer, tells the American Heart Association. Read on to learn about the 10 most common signs often ignored by women suffering a heart attack—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Women May Have Chest Discomfort

african woman feeling menstrual cyclic breast pain, touching her chest,

According to the American Heart Association, "uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest," is one of the key heart attack signs in women. "It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back," they explain.


Women May Have Arm Pain or Discomfort 

Senior woman with arm pain

Pain or discomfort in one or both arms is also common. In 2012, Rosie O'Donnell suffered a heart attack, and noted arm pain as one of her symptoms. On her Rosie Blog she detailed what happened after she helped an "enormous" woman out of a car. "A few hours later my body hurt, I had an ache in my chest both my arms were sore, everything felt bruised," she revealed. 

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Women May Have Back Pain

Woman is touching her stiff shoulder.

Back pain can be one of the key signs a woman is having a heart attack. The pain associated with heart attack can be described as upper back pressure that feels like squeezing or a rope being tied around them, Goldberg said.


Women May Have Stomach Pain

Woman lying on sofa and suffering from stomach pain.

Stomach pain can also occur during a heart attack. If you do experience any of these types of pain, you shouldn't overlook it. "Many women I see take an aspirin if they think they are having a heart attack and never call 911," Goldberg said. "But if they think about taking an aspirin for their heart attack, they should also call 911."

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Women May Have Shortness of Breath 

Shortness of breath, "with or without chest discomfort," can also be a signal. You could feel so short of breath, "as though you ran a marathon, but you haven't made a move," Goldberg said.


Women May Have Nausea or Vomiting 

Middle aged woman suffering from abdominal pain while sitting on bed at home

Per the Mayo Clinic, nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain can all be signs of heartburn. Many women write these heart attack-related symptoms off as acid reflux. 

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Women May Have Lightheadedness

Tired mature woman take off glasses suffering from headache

According to Goldberg, dizziness, lightheadedness or actually fainting are other symptoms to look for.

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Women May Have Extreme Fatigue 

Woman experiencing a bad headache

Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD notes that fatigue—especially new or dramatic—can be a sign of heart attack. She suggests looking out for the following signs: 

You are suddenly worn out after your typical exercise routine, you aren't exerting yourself, but have fatigue or a "heavy" chest, simple activity like making the bed, walking to the bathroom or shopping makes you excessively tired, or, although you feel exceptionally tired, you also experience sleep disturbance.

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Women May Have Cold Sweats

Sweating woman wearing sweater

Dr. Cho adds that "stress" sweat (cold, clammy feeling) when there is no real cause for stress or "sweating or shortness of breath accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain or fatigue," are also signs to look out for. 

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Women May Have Neck or Jaw Pain

Woman holding sore neck

Some people may also experience pain in their neck or jaw. Dr. Cho notes that you may feel pain that is specific to the left, lower side of the jaw. "Learn the signs for heart attack, and remember: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out," says the American Heart Association. "Minutes matter. Fast action can save lives – maybe your own. Call 911 if you experience heart attack warning signs. Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah