ZocdocAnswersWhat is the difference between symptoms of a heart attack in women versus a heart attack in men?

Question

What is the difference between symptoms of a heart attack in women versus a heart attack in men?

I?ve heard that the symptoms of a heart attack in women are considerably different than the symptoms that men have. Since my sister has recently suffered a heart attack and one of my brothers has undergone open-heart surgery, I am now considered at risk for heart disease. Could you please explain the difference between heart attack symptoms in men and those in women? I want to make sure that if the worst happens I am prepared and recognize the warning signs.

Answer

A heart attack is a very serious and potentially life threatening condition. You are very right to ask what the symptoms would be in order to be prepared and it's important to discuss this with your primary care physician. Especially as heart disease can run in families. The difference in between symptoms of heart attacks between men and women is great. In general, the symptoms one would classically think of for a heart attack can occur in either a man or a women. These symptoms include chest discomfort (often located in the middle of the chest behind the breast bone, often a dull pain or a "heaviness"), difficulty breathing, unexplained sweating or jaw or left arm pain. These symptoms (or a combination of them) suggest that the heart is not getting enough blood which is really what happens in a heart attack. However, some people have different or more atypical symptoms. These can include abdominal pain or nausea. Both men and women can have these symptoms. That being said, women are less likely to have these classic symptoms. Women are more likely to have "silent" heart attacks which means that someone has a heart attack without noticing any symptoms. People with diabetes or advanced age are also more likely to have silent heart attacks. Women can have similar symptoms as men, however are more likely to have atypical symptoms. Talk to your PCP for more info.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.