Heart attack symptoms may vary between males and females

Heart attack symptoms may vary between males and females

Last Reviewed : 12/30/2020

Heart attack symptoms vary between males and females. This is due to the anatomical and physiological differences between the two genders—women posses estrogen hormone, which is cardio-protective. After menopause, the incidence of cardiovascular diseases increases dramatically among women. Do you wish to learn about how heart attack symptoms differ between men and women? If yes, join us as we unearth all we have in store for you in this informative guide.

Let us have a look at the symptoms of both males and females

We will start with symptoms of the men and later progress to those of women.

Symptoms of a heart attack in men

  1. Unlike women, men often have heart attacks earlier in life.
  2. If there are any other risk factors, the chances of having a heart attack earlier are even higher.
  3. Standard chest pain/pressure that feels like "an elephant" is sitting on your chest, with a squeezing sensation that may come and go. Oftentimes, it remains constant and intense upper body pain or discomfort, including arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  4. Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
  5. Stomach discomfort that feels like indigestion.
  6. Shortness of breath even at rest.
  7. Dizziness.
  8. Breaking out in a cold sweat.

Symptoms of a heart attack in women

In recent decades, scientists have realized that women have peculiar heart attack symptoms. So, in 2003, the Journal Circulation, published the findings of a multicenter study of 515 women who had experienced a heart attack. The most frequently reported symptoms didn't include chest pain. Instead, women reported unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, and anxiety. Nearly 80 percent reported experiencing at least one symptom for more than a month before their heart attack.

By and large, symptoms of heart attack in women include:

  1. Unusual fatigue lasting for several days or sudden severe fatigue
  2. Sleep disturbances
  3. Anxiety
  4. Lightheadedness
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Indigestion or gas-like pain
  7. Upper back, shoulder, or throat pain
  8. Jaw pain or pain that spreads up to your jaw
  9. Pressure or pain in the center of your chest, which may spread to your arm.

After menopause, women’s risk of heart attack increases. Unfortunately, women who experience a heart attack are less likely to survive than men. Therefore, it becomes even more important to remain conscious of your heart health after you go through menopause.

There are additional symptoms of a heart attack that women over the age of 50 may experience. These symptoms include:

  1. Severe chest pain
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  3. Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  4. Sweating


Relevant Studies 


According to Dr. Lili Barouch, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, women are much more likely to have atypical heart attack symptoms. "So while the classic symptoms, such as chest pains, apply to both men and women, women are much more likely to get less common symptoms such as indigestion, shortness of breath, and back pain, sometimes, even in the absence of obvious chest discomfort."

A team of researchers from the University of Rochester's nursing school in New York studied 41 women and 59 men who had had heart attacks in the past. The study centered on heart attack symptoms and any delays in seeking medical care.

Most participants were white. The women were about 70 years old, compared with the men's average age of 60. More men were current or former smokers -- 81%, compared with 56% of the women. No gender differences existed for a history of angina/chest pain, CAD, High Blood Pressure, past history of heart attack, Diabetes or high blood cholesterol levels. Men were also five times more likely than women to recognize their symptoms as being related to their heart.

 The findings were:

  1. Pain, shortness of breath and fatigue: No gender differences
  2. Right-side chest discomfort: 4.7 times more likely to be reported by men
  3. Throat discomfort: 12 times more likely to be reported by women
  4. Discomfort: 2.7 times more likely to be reported by men
  5. Dull ache: 3.9 times more likely to be reported by men
  6. Pressing on the chest: 7.3 times more likely to be reported by women
  7. Vomiting: 3.9 times more likely to be reported by women
  8. Indigestion: 3.7 times more likely to be reported by men


Final Notes

In this guide, you have learned how the symptoms of heart attacks differ between the two genders. The team of experts at the University of Rochester's nursing school in New York further lent credence to that with their exhaustive research. As a man or woman, you now know the symptoms of heart attack as it relates to your gender. So, when you notice these symptoms, you have to make an informed decision by contacting a physician because delay can be dangerous.

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