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It might be difficult for women to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack. Often, these sensations are less severe than the heart-clutching anguish associated with heart attacks in men. Women often tend to downplay the symptoms or blame them on stress, physical strain, or digestive issues. Understanding the more subtle signs of heart attacks in women is an important step towards receiving urgent care when necessary.

Heart Attack Symptoms

The most common heart attack symptom in women is the same as in men: persistent chest pain, pressure, or discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes or comes & goes. However, chest pain is not often severe or the most apparent sign, especially in females. Women commonly experience heart attack pain as pressure or tightness. A heart attack can sometimes occur without any signs of chest pain.
Women are more likely than men to experience heart attack symptoms other than chest pain, such as:

These symptoms may be nonspecific and less obvious than the crushing chest pain commonly linked with heart attacks. This could be because females are more likely to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller ones that feed blood to the heart, a condition known as small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease. Females are more likely than males to experience symptoms while resting or sleeping. Emotional stress can cause heart attack symptoms in women. Because the signs of a heart attack differ between men and women, women may be identified with heart disease less frequently than men. Women are more likely than males to get a heart attack when there is no major arterial blockage (nonobstructive coronary artery disease).

Heart Attack Signs

In addition to the common signs of a heart attack, there also are signs and symptoms associated with specific types of heart attacks.

Silent Heart Attack

A silent heart attack occurs when there are little or no signs and symptoms, or when symptoms are not recognised. 170,000 of the 805,000 heart attacks that occur each year are believed to be quiet.

With a silent heart attack, a person may not be aware that they have had a heart attack until they see a healthcare physician for another reason. For example, you may not feel like yourself or be more fatigued, so you seek medical attention. In recent weeks, you may have felt that you had

  • The flu
  • Indigestion
  • A muscle strain in your chest or upper back or your jaw or upper back or arms

Only when magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), or other tests are conducted may a past heart attack appear as quiet. A silent heart attack is equally risky as one with clear signs and symptoms.

Mini Heart Attack

A small heart attack causes less damage to the heart than a typical heart attack. This kind of heart attack is referred to as non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI). NSTEMI occurs when blood flow to one of the heart's main arteries becomes partially or fully blocked. A small heart attack will have the same symptoms and signs as a regular heart attack, including: 

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

A small heart attack is still considered a medical emergency. When someone is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, always seek quick medical attention.

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) is one of the more common causes of heart attacks in women, particularly in young women. Arteries carry blood to the heart, and SCAD causes a tear in the layer of one or more arteries. When a tear occurs, an opening or blood clot can form. Either of these can reduce blood supply to the heart, resulting in a heart attack.  SCAD is the primary cause of heart attacks in females aged 50 and under, as well as pregnant women and those who have recently given birth. SCAD patients often have no other heart disease risk factors. The indications and symptoms of a SCAD-caused heart attack are similar to those of other heart attacks, including.

  • Chest pain/pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme sweating
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the arm, jaw, or upper back
  • Shortness of breath

Average Age of Heart Attack 

The average age for a first heart attack in women is 72 years. This compares to 65.6 years for men. However, more females are having heart attacks at younger ages, including SCAD. According to one research, heart attacks are increasing in women aged 35 to 54.
The prevalence of heart disease risk factors, which include:

Half of all adults have one or more of these risk factors. Other factors that increase the risk of heart disease are:

  • Diabetes
  • Having obesity
  • Lack of physical activity

When the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Surveillance project reviewed hospital admissions for heart attacks from 1995 to 2014, it discovered that hospitalisations among people aged 35 to 54 climbed from 27% in the early research period to 32% by the end. The greatest growth occurred among young females.

Reasons Women Have an Increased Risk for Mortality

Women are twice as likely as men to die from heart attacks. Reasons for this include:

  • Heart disease is often considered "a man's disease," despite being the leading cause of death among females. This lack of knowledge may delay treatment.
  • Women's heart attack symptoms may be ignored due to their lower awareness compared to men.
  • Females who are carers are more likely to ignore or minimise health issues. This can cause individuals to delay going to the hospital, which could impact their recovery from the heart attack.
  • Women are more likely to experience health issues following a heart attack than men. This could be related to the patient's older age at the time of the heart attack, as well as the presence of additional health issues.


Heart attack symptoms for women may differ from those for men. In addition to chest pain and other symptoms, females may feel excessive exhaustion, dizziness, and indigestion. Chest pain may also feel different. Females are more likely to experience certain types of heart attacks, such as silent heart attacks and SCAD. The average age of a heart attack in women is 72 years old, however, more heart attacks are occurring at younger ages. Women are also more likely than men to die or have health difficulties as a result of a heart attack.

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