While the symptoms of a heart attack are often similar in men and women, women are more likely to experience “atypical” symptoms than men. That’s why it’s particularly important for women to be familiar with the full range of heart attack symptoms, including those that aren’t as common, but may be more common in women than men.
- Chest Pain or Discomfort
This symptom isn’t always “painful.” It can also feel like squeezing, pressure, heaviness, tightness or fullness, and be anywhere from mild to severe.
- Heaviness or Pain in Other Areas
These may include the back, neck, jaw or arms. This is more common in women. The pain or pressure can be gradual or sudden. It may come and go, gradually intensify or awaken one from sleep.
- Cold Sweating
This can occur even without chest discomfort. If there is no obvious reason for sweating, such as exercise or hot flashes, consider having your physician investigate this further.
Some women may experience extreme exhaustion even during routine tasks, a gradual or sudden decrease in energy level, or an inability to complete tasks they were able to do in the past.
Nausea can be a symptom of other problems, such as the flu, heartburn or stomach ulcers. However, nausea can also be a symptom of heart disease or angina.
- Shortness of Breath
This can occur with minimal activity or with activities that previously did not cause breathing difficulty. This is especially important because people with diabetes experiencing a heart attack may not necessarily have chest pain, and this may be their only symptom.
This may occur with activity or in conjunction with any of the other symptoms.
In the case of a heart attack, no symptom should be taken lightly. If symptoms exist, call 911 as soon as they appear – even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack. It could save your life. And remember, with heart attacks, TIME = MUSCLE: A heart attack can begin to damage the heart within 30 minutes of the start of symptoms, and sometimes the damage is irreversible.
About Dr. Lundberg
Gina Price Lundberg, MD, FACC , is the clinical director of the Emory Women’s Heart Center and a preventive cardiologist with Emory Clinic in East Cobb. Dr. Lundberg is an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.
She is a national American Heart Association (AHA) spokesperson and was a board member for the Atlanta chapter from 2001 to 2007. Dr. Lundberg was the Honoree for the AHA’s North Fulton/Gwinnett County Heart Ball for 2006. In 2009, she was awarded the Women with Heart Award at the Go Red Luncheon for outstanding dedication to the program. She is also a Circle of Red founding member and Cor Vitae member for the AHA.
She has been interviewed on the subject of heart disease in women by multiple media outlets, including CNN and USA Today. In 2007, Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Dr. Lundberg to the advisory board of the Georgia Department of Women’s Health, where she served until 2011. In 2005, Atlanta Woman magazine awarded Dr. Lundberg the Top 10 Innovator Award for Medicine. In 2008, Atlanta Woman named her one of the Top 25 Professional Women to Watch and the only woman in the field of medicine.
Dr. Lundberg attended the Medical College of Georgia and trained in internal medicine at Atlanta Medical Center (Georgia Baptist). She completed her cardiology fellowship at Rush University in Chicago. She has been in practice in Atlanta since 1994. She is board certified in cardiology and internal medicine and was recertified in both in 2002. Dr. Lundberg has two children and considers motherhood her first and foremost career. Dr. Lundberg has lived most of her life in the metro Atlanta area.
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 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 cardiac screening and find out if you are at risk for heart disease.