While chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women, it may not be the most prominent one. This is especially true for women, who are more likely than men to experience a heart attack without any chest pain at all. However, women are also more likely than men to experience other, less common symptoms, including jaw pain.
Heart attacks occur when oxygen-rich blood is unable to flow through the arteries and into the heart muscle. When this happens, a distress signal is sent to the spinal column through the nerves connected to the heart. Many nerves meet in the same location on the spine, including those coming from the jaw. As a result, when the signals from the heart reach the brain, sometimes the brain misinterprets the source of the original signal, and instead of alerting the body about the danger by sending pain signals to the heart, it sends the pain signals to the jaw instead.
If the jaw pain is constant, it may be due to a dental health issue. However, if it’s a symptom of a heart attack, the pain is more likely to be intermittent and increase with activity. If you experience jaw pain and there’s no other obvious cause, you should call 911 — even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack. A heart attack can begin to damage the heart within 30 minutes of the start of symptoms, and sometimes the damage is irreversible. Visit the Emory Women’s Heart Center website to learn about other atypical heart attack symptoms .
It can also help to know your personal risk level and what you can do to help prevent a heart attack. Call 404-778-7777 to schedule a comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment with an Emory Women’s Heart Center specialist today.
About Dr. Cutchins
Alexis Cutchins, MD is an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Cutchins completed medical school at Emory University School of Medicine before going to New York Presbyterian Hospital for her internship and residency in internal medicine. She completed an NIH-supported research fellowship in vascular biology and a clinical fellowship in cardiovascular diseases at the University of Virginia in 2012. She has a special interest in heart disease in women, in addition to heart disease prevention and risk reduction in cardiology patients.
About the Emory Women’s Heart Center
Emory Women’s Heart Center is a unique program dedicated to screening for, preventing and treating heart disease in women. The Center, led by nationally renowned cardiologist Gina Price Lundberg, MD , provides comprehensive cardiac risk assessments and screenings for patients at risk for heart disease, as well as a full range of treatment options for women already diagnosed with heart disease. Call 404-778-7777 to schedule a comprehensive cardiovascular screening and find out if you are at risk for heart disease.