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Women and heart attacks

A heart attack can change your life in an instant

At Novant Health, we know there is nothing more important than the health of you and your family. But a heart attack can change your life in an instant.

If you experience the symptoms of a heart attack, immediately dial


As a woman, you may not realize you are having a heart attack. Many of the symptoms often experienced by women are different from the classic, recognizable heart attack symptoms usually reported by men.

Warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women
  • Pressure, fullness, tightness or pain in your chest lasting five minutes or longer
  • Constant, indigestion-like discomfort
  • Chest pain that moves to your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea / vomiting
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness or tiredness
  • Palpitations, a cold sweat or paleness
  • Sudden, racing heart sensation with a very fast pulse
  • Inability to perform household chores

Watch this video: Go Red for Women™ presents Just a Little Heart Attack.

Some symptoms may show up as early as a month before you have a heart attack. In one major study, researchers surveyed more than 500 women who had survived heart attacks. Ninety-five percent had new and different symptoms up to a month prior to their heart attacks. Surprisingly, fatigue and problems sleeping topped the list. More than 70 percent of the patients experienced no chest pain or discomfort, as most men do.

Common heart attack symptoms in women

These are the most common symptoms reported by women in the month leading up to their heart attacks:

  • Unexplained or unusual fatigue - 71 percent
  • Sleep disturbance - 48 percent
  • Shortness of breath - 42 percent
  • Indigestion - 39 percent
  • Anxiety - 35 percent
Are you at risk of heart attack?

If one or more of these factors applies to you, you could be at greater risk and should talk to a Novant Health heart and vascular expert:

  • Menstruation has stopped
  • Smoking
  • Family history of hardening of the arteries before age 60
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol

If you believe you might be having a heart attack, call  911 immediately and ask to be taken to the nearest medical center emergency department.