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10 Symptoms Women May Not Notice Before a Heart Attack

These symptoms may be experienced days or even weeks before a serious cardiac event.

It’s usually pretty easy in movies and television shows to spot someone having a heart attack. The incident is depicted by someone grabbing their chest as they experience sudden and intense chest pain. But in real life, symptoms of a heart attack are often more subtle and may come on more gradually, especially in women.

The most obvious sign of a heart attack is pressure, pain, or tightness in the chest. But here are some less obvious signs of a heart attack that may occur, especially in women. They may go unnoticed or may be attributed to another cause. These symptoms may not only appear during a heart attack or immediately prior to it, but some symptoms may even be noticeable for days or weeks before the event occurs.

Less Obvious Signs of a Heart Attack:

  1. Pressure, pain, or tightness in the arm, neck, shoulder, jaw, back, or abdomen
  2. Feeling of fullness
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Unusual fatigue or weakness
  5. Sleep problems
  6. Breaking out in a cold sweat
  7. Anxiety
  8. Indigestion
  9. Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  10. Nausea or vomiting

Women may experience symptoms for weeks before an actual heart attack occurs. Early symptoms may be mild, and they may come and go. Over time, symptoms may become more intense. Unfortunately, many women who notice these symptoms either ignore them, attribute them to something else, or are misdiagnosed when they see a doctor.

During a heart attack, women’s symptoms may also be more subtle than men’s symptoms. This may cause women to not seek treatment as quickly as they should, which may explain why women are less likely to survive their first heart attack than men.

If you are a woman and experience any of the symptoms listed, consider that they may be related to an impending heart attack, especially if you have any risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, smoking or a family history of heart disease. Pay attention to these symptoms and see a doctor. If your doctor shrugs off your symptoms or attributes them to something else, but you feel they may be related to a cardiac issue, press the subject. The risks of a possible heart attack are too great to ignore.

To learn more about comprehensive cardiac services at Memorial Hospital’s  Sarvanand Heart and Brain Center Center,  click here. To find a cardiologist, cardiovascular specialist, or primary care physician (PCP), please call (805) 826-1046 or use our online Find A Doctor tool.


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Date Last Reviewed: December 13, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD