Women experience heart attack symptoms differently than men and most experience many more than the classic chest pain and numbness down the arm. It is essential to know all of the indications related to a heart attack -- recognizing the signs early can lead to life-saving intervention.
Some people describe chest pain experienced during a heart attack as an "elephant sitting on the chest." However, this pain can manifest differently depending on the person experiencing it. Others explain it as a sensation similar to heartburn, or indeterminate but extreme pain. The chest pain will last for more than a few minutes when associated with a heart attack. Strong sensation in the left or center of the chest could be a sign of a heart attack, especially if it is associated with other symptoms on this list.
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Nausea is the feeling of being sick to your stomach or needing to vomit. In heart attack cases, women experience this symptom more than men and often assume they have a gastrointestinal virus. Nausea can be caused by so many different illnesses that it is easy to overlook this symptom of a heart attack in women.
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Anxiety is a common symptom of a heart attack, the feeling as if something is wrong but one can't quite identify what it is. Some women also experience panic attacks and feel as though the room is closing in or their chest is being compressed, making it difficult to breathe. Though heart attacks are not the only culprit, such anxiety will often seem to come on without cause.
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Some heart attack symptoms such as stomach pain can be mistaken for indigestion and therefore might be ignored until more serious indicators are noticed. If stomach pain accompanies other symptoms such as chest pain, seeking medical attention is recommended.
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Another telltale sign of a heart attack is pain in the arm, leg, or jaw. A woman may feel numbness radiating down the left arm, and this pain or sensation can spread elsewhere in the body, up into the face or down into the lower extremities. Men do not typically experience jaw or back pain when having a heart attack.
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Heart attacks can cause shortness of breath or difficulty taking a breath. Sometimes this symptom comes on in conjunction with chest pain or pressure, but not always. A woman may attempt to take long, deep breaths but cannot get the air needed to do so.
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Cold sweats result in cold and clammy skin. When caused by a heart attack, this symptom usually appears suddenly. Many illnesses can cause excessive sweating, but cold sweat is a rarer sign of a medical problem, especially the type that comes on without warning.
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Feeling light-headed or dizzy, as though the room is spinning, can indicate an impending heart attack, as can the feeling that one is about to lose consciousness. Like most of the symptoms on this list, most women experiencing a heart attack will have this symptom along with other signs. If light-headedness is the only symptom, it is more likely the cause is something else, such as vertigo or use of a new medication.
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Fatigue is another symptom of a heart attack that is far from conclusive, as many different conditions and events can cause it, including something as simple as eating too little. Though it is important not to cause oneself needless stress by immediately assuming the worst, it is just as vital not to disregard symptoms that could point to a serious problem. Fatigue related to a heart attack usually presents as unexpected and unusual sluggishness or exhaustion, and it may accompany shortness of breath. These two symptoms together often indicate a larger issue.
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Heart palpitations occur when the heart beats unevenly and may feel like the organ is "skipping a beat" or causing a fluttery sensation in the chest. Events such as an anxiety attack can cause a similar sensation, but if heart palpitations are recurrent or happen along with other heart attack symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
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