The signs of a heart attack in women can be different from the ones we’re used to hearing about .

One morning Sue woke up feeling lethargic and exhausted. Her chest felt tight and when she got up, she found she was short of breath and felt achy.  She wondered if she were coming down with the flu that was going around.

She got dressed and went down to the kitchen to get started on breakfast and lunches for the kids.  Halfway down the stairs she felt dizzy and broke out in a clammy sweat.  Her heart was racing, and she felt panicky. It got harder to breathe.

Luckily, she called 911.  She was having a heart attack.

Heart Attack Statistics for Women

This is not an unusual story. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both African American and white women in the United States. For Hispanic women, heart disease ties with cancer as the number one cause of death.

Heart disease covers several conditions that affect the heart’s function:

  • Coronary Artery Disease (affects the arteries leading to the heart)
  • Valvular heart disease (affects the function of the valves of the heart)
  • Cardiomyopathy (affects how the muscles of the heart work)
  • Heart rhythm disturbances (affects the electrical conduction of the heart)
  • Structural problems (often occur before birth)

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease.  Cholesterol plaque builds up in the arteries causing them to narrow and restrict the flow of blood to the heart. When a piece of that plaque breaks off and creates a clot that causes a heart attack.

The scary part is that almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease experienced no previous symptoms.  So, no matter your age, race, or the current state of your health, it’s important you should know the signs of a heart attack in women.  And yes, they might not be the same as in a man.

This is one gender gap you need to pay attention to.  It might just save your life.

Signs of a Heart Attack in Women

  1. Shortness of breath. This is one of the common signs of a heart attack in women.  It would start suddenly and for no apparent reason.
  2. You know the feeling of breaking out in a cold, clammy sweat when you’re under pressure, in times of stress or fear?  With a pending heart attack, it comes on for absolutely no reason.
  3. A feeling of exhaustion.  Not uncommon for women, as we tend to juggle three or four tasks at once. Work, kids’ activities, homework, dinner – the list goes on. But if you’re getting enough sleep and experience a sudden, unusual feeling of exhaustion, pay attention.
  4. Sharp upper body pain.Men tend to feel more of a massive pressure in the chest, while women feel sharp pains in their neck, upper arms, or jaw.  The pain can be so intense that it will wake you up from a deep sleep.  Some women do feel chest pain, but it is likely to be a tight discomfort across the entire chest, not just on the left side.
  5. Rapid heartbeat and anxiety. This often accompanies the cold sweat.  It can make you think you’re having a panic attack, but it happens when there are no circumstances present that would cause such an attack.

How to Beat the Odds

There are things you can do to lower your risk of having a heart attack.  All of them are things you can do without medication or medical intervention – it’s about living a healthy lifestyle and making good choices:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Manage your blood sugar. (This doesn’t only apply to Diabetics)
  • Get your blood pressure under control
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Know your family history
  • Stay active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet

Many of these go hand-in-hand.  When you’re active and eat well, you’re more likely to maintain a healthy weight. That should keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a normal range too. As women, we so often take care of everyone else and neglect ourselves.  But you can’t take care of anyone if you’re no longer there.

The best way to discover what nutrients your body needs for optimum health, is to find a Nutrition Response Testing® practitioner and get tested.


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