Unusual Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

· November 18, 2015
In today's article we'll be talking about some of the more unusual signs and symptoms that a woman could be about to have a heart attack.

Cardiovascular diseases affect both men and women, particularly once they reach adulthood. In countries like the United States and Spain, these diseases have become the number one cause of death in women. They have even surpassed others like breast and ovarian cancer. It’s important for us to be able to identify different unusual heart attack symptoms in women, in order to try and reduce these worrying statistics.

A cause of great concern for health experts is that women tend to see a doctor less often than men. They also take longer to decide to go. This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons that female mortality from cardiovascular diseases has increased.

Heart attacks are characterized by a set of common symptoms that let you know you’re suffering from this serious condition. But in the case of many women, there are some unusual heart attack symptoms that can easily be confused with other health problems. This can lead to inaction or an incorrect response or diagnosis.

Risk factors

A heart attack can occur at any time, without warning. But there are certain risk factors that increase your chances of suffering from this problem at some point in your life:

Most people who lead a healthy lifestyle have a reduced risk of ever experiencing a heart attack. Of course, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other, less predictable factors like congenital heart defects or other problems that could lead to an attack.

Unusual heart attack symptoms in women

The internal organs of a woman
In many cases, the following atypical heart attack symptoms can be confusing to both the patient and the medical professional who is examining them. In fact, many experts concede that if they were shown the same symptoms again, they likely wouldn’t come to the conclusion that the underlying problem is a heart attack.

If, however, there are people who are predisposed to suffer from cardiovascular problems, then it’s a different matter. There’s a greater likelihood that doctors would recognize what’s happening and perform the proper examinations.

You may not be at risk due to any of the above risk factors. However, it’s important that all women are aware of the different unusual symptoms of a heart attack. They should also bear in mind that these symptoms may persist for days, or even weeks.

Read more: How to Keep Your Arteries Healthy

Feeling tired

A feeling of constant tiredness is often attributed to getting poor sleep or taking certain medications. It can also be due to being exposed to stressful situations. But if your fatigue occurs all the time or is extremely severe, it could be the first sign of a heart attack or heart disease.

In a study of women who survived a heart attack, 70% of respondents reported having feelings of extreme tiredness in the days and weeks leading up to it.

InsomniaA woman with a headache

Closely linked to the symptom above, insomnia could be considered another unusual symptom of heart attacks in women. It’s true that a number of factors can trigger insomnia. However, one study found that nearly half of women who have had a heart attack also experienced trouble sleeping in the days and weeks before it.

See also: The 3 Best Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Coughing and shortness of breath

Maybe you’re not suffering from a respiratory problem, yet suddenly have trouble breathing deeply. Difficulty breathing can occur when you do your daily activities. However, when it is coupled with an unexplained cough it could also be an early warning sign of a heart attack. Don’t forget, however, that it could be caused by numerous other health problems.

Heartburn and bloating

Feeling a burning sensation or inflammation of the abdomen after eating could also be an early symptom of a heart attack in women. One study found that 40% of women who suffered from a heart attack experienced these issues only moments before.

Dizziness and profuse sweating

A woman sweating in the chest area
Another of our unusual heart attack symptoms is dizziness and sweating. While these two symptoms are more commonly related to menopause, it’s also been found that they can also appear just before a heart attack. Of women who survived a heart attack, 40% of them recalled a feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness immediately before it. Another 40% complained of cold sweats.

Anxiety with no clear cause

Unexplained anxiety is one final symptom that you should remember, especially if it’s accompanied by tightness in the chest. A third of female victims of a heart attack experienced an inexplicable feeling of anxiety just before it struck. Additionally, you should also know that stress and anxiety can actually increase your risk of having a heart attack in the first place.

Ornato, J. P., & Hand, M. M. (2001). Warning signs of a heart attack. Circulation. https://doi.org/10.1161/hc2501.093258