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Women Heart Attack Symptoms

Updated on May 30, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


Statistics for Heart Attacks in Women

One in four female deaths in the US are caused by coronary heart disease. In the United States 1.5 million heart attacks occur annually, with 289,758 deaths in 2013. Almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die from heart attacks have no prior symptoms.

Equally alarming is the fact that women who have sudden death is more common in women partially, because women do not always recognize the symptoms of a heart attack. Symptoms for women can be slightly different than those for men.

As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the grim reality of women under the age of 40 who have heart attacks are twice as likely to die than men. In the U. S. a heart attack occurs in someone every 20 seconds.

Most of the deaths occur outside of a hospital setting within the first hour, which is why it is so important to call 911 if you have any symptoms. Certainly erring on the side of protecting yourself is the most important consideration. Women tend to wait 2-4 hours longer to get help when having a heart attack than men, which would account for the higher death rate.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Women

While the most common sign of a heart attack is chest discomfort, women often have other symptoms, and the chest discomfort is not the most prominent symptom.

Symptoms that are common in women are:

  • Shoulders, upper back, neck, inner arm or elbows, earlobe, jaw or neck pain are not uncommon.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Dizziness or lightheartedness.
  • Unusual fatigue.
  • Unusual headache, particularly when coupled with other symptoms.

Sometimes women might feel they have the flu or indigestion, when they are actually having a heart attack. Due to the fact that there is a relatively short time frame for treatment of a heart attack, it is very important to get to an ER. Call 911 if you have the symptoms listed above.

Heart Attack Risks and Symptoms in Women

Cardiovascular Heart Disease Risk Factors

While the typical risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as, genetic predisposition, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity, play a role in women's heart attacks, there are other factors pertinent in women's heart disease.

Fat around the abdomen along with high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides is called the metabolic syndrome which has a greater impact on women than men.

  • Depression and stress also have a larger impact on women.
  • Smoking for women is also a greater risk than it is for men.
  • After menopause the low levels of estrogen also poses a more significant risk.
  • Drinking excessive alcohol is a risk factor.

Women under the age of 65 should pay particular attention to the risk factors if they have a positive family history for heart disease.

Ear Lobe Crease


Diagonal Ear Lobe Crease a Factor?

There have been some studies which indicate cardiovascular heart disease if the person has ear lobe creases, especially after 40 years of age. Interestingly enough the ear lobe creases have been questioned for centuries. Publius Aelius Hadrianys (Hadrian) the emperor of Rome (117-138 CE) fell ill and died at the age of 60. He was sculpted with deep creases in both ear lobes.

One thousand patients were examined for ear lobe creases and evaluated for cardiovascular disease. The result revealed a high correlation between the people with creases and heart disease. There is also a higher incidence of stroke. There are still mixed views of this correlation by physicians.

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For a Healthy Heart

While you cannot change the genetic component of heart disease, there are several things you can do to prevent a heart attack.

  • Eat a diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.
  • Exercise regularly, preferably 30-60 minutes daily and Yoga is helpful as it also reduces stress.
  • If you smoke, it is important to quit.
  • Keeping your weight in a normal range is important.
  • Take a baby aspirin a day as a preventative measure.

A cup of green tea daily, eating cashews nuts and getting plenty of sleep are all helpful in reducing your risk of disease. Reducing stress on the job or in the home is very important to maintain good health, as stress is a factor in many diseases.

Women's Heart Attacks Misunderstood

In Conclusion

February is Heart Month. It is a time to become familiar with all the symptoms of heart disease, particularly the differences between men and women.

As women have a higher death rate, it is imperative for women to understand the differences and what to do in the case of an emergency. Calling 911, taking an aspirin and sitting until the ambulance arrives is the best way to treat this medical emergency.

Risk for Heart Disease

Do you do things to help reduce your risk of heart disease?

See results

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    UMHiram, I am glad that you are better informed about the symptoms that women experience. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • UMHiram profile image

    U M Hiram 

    8 years ago from Midwest

    Great Hub and very informative. There are some things on here that I wasn't aware of in regards to certain symptoms. Voted up.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    mismazda, I am glad you found this hub helpful. I would love to educate all women as to the signs of a heart attack. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • mismazda profile image


    8 years ago from a southern georgia peach

    Thanks for this HUB..women really do not know the signs, and always think that it is only chest pain. This hub was very informative. Voted up and useful.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    jessicasol, I just found your comment in the spam filter for some reason. I want you to know I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    conradofontanilla, You are right. Estrogen is a protection for women but of course, as women age that protection is gone. Women die from heart attacks more often then men as they don't recognize the symptoms. I am excited to know there are new treatments ahead. Thanks for your comments.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I am glad to learn from you the percentage of re-occlusion of angioplastied artery and to know that you are a part of the history of stent. This technology has helped a lot of people. I am after a better way to treat angina and to prevent heart attack as angioplasty also has a risk of 2 to 5 percent according to Dr. DeBakey. I think women have an advantage over men in the protection against heart disease because of more abundant estrogen. Unfortunately, estrogen will dwindle after menopause.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    conradofontanilla, Risk factors absolutely make heart disease more likely and numerous carefully structured studies have proven this fact. For instance, smoking constricts blood vessels causes damage. Untreated hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The Human Genome Project is complete and they understand the role DNA plays in heart disease and what happens in the body during recovery from a heart attack.

    Stents are not new and were approved by the FDA in 1994. As a nurse I worked with doctors who performed the first stent procedures, which was a very exciting treatment; vessels after an angioplasties tended to re-occlude about 3 months out in approximately 30% of the patients. Dr. DeBakey is a well known heart doctor certainly scientific research has given physicians a greater understanding about the actual physical process that occurs in a heart attack. Some heart attacks aren't caused by heart disease at all, but by blood clots, particularly with patients who have atrial fibrillation.

    This article is intended for women to recognize the signs of a heart attack, as they are often different than a man's symptoms. Another point of the hub is to live a life style that helps prevent heart disease, not to give them all the technical information on what occurs during a heart attack.

    I imagine your hub on chelation and stem cell therapy is very interesting, as that is the newest exciting technology.

  • conradofontanilla profile image


    8 years ago from Philippines


    Risk factors are not causes of heart disease. A risk factor is a device used to predict the probability of a person getting sick, according to Dr. Michael DeBakey, MD and Antonio Gotto, Hr., MD in their book "The New living Heart" (1997). The causes of heart disease are free radicals that inflict an injury in the cells, at least one cell, in the inside wall of the artery. That injury results in atheroma, a benign tumor. The body attempts to repair atheroma with collagen, elastin, fibrin, and cholesterol. Calcium apatite comes in later as a cementing agent. The result is an occlusion or atherosclerosis. Sometimes a heart attack is silent that strikes without symptoms, according to Dr. DeBakey. It can be detected by MB fraction creatine kinase test and two-dimensional echocardiography. Stent is the latest addition to the procedure of angioplasty. One side effect is that the inside wall of the artery may grow around the stent (a fine wire mess that serves as a prop) and narrow the artery. Such narrowing can bring on angina or heart attack. Heart disease (narrowing of heart artery also called myocardial ischemia) can be prevented by antioxidants. Plaque in heart artery can be dissolved by chelation therapy. I have Hubs on heart disease like "Chelation and Stem Cell Therapies Completely Repair the Heart."

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I am so sorry to hear you had what sounds like a major heart attack. It is wonderful that you realized you were in trouble quickly and had your husband call 911. I hope you are fully recovered and I appreciate your telling your story. Too many people think the symptom will be a major pain in their chest, and for women especially this is not true. Thanks.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Hazelton 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Wonderful hub. I had a major heart attack this past June. I ended up in ICU for 4 days and the cardiac unit for another 5 days. It is something I will never forget. My symptoms were a pain in the shoulder spreading to the neck and the jaw. I immediately told my husband I needed to go to the hospital. On the way there I started feeling the shortness of breath and lightheadedness. By the time I reached the hospital I was covered in sweat. I don't know how I knew it was a heart attack - I'd never heard of these particular symptoms happening this way. Your article can be a lifesaver for many who have no idea of what the symptoms can be for a woman. Rated up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Robert, I appreciate your comment.

  • Roberta99 profile image


    8 years ago

    This is a hub that all women should read. Rated awesome.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Lady E, I appreciate your comments.

  • Lady_E profile image


    8 years ago from London, UK

    Thanks. I've learnt a few more tips. I must get some aspirins too.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    jessicasol, Thank you for your comments.

  • jessicasol profile image


    8 years ago

    Interesting and very useful hub... :)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Barbara Kay, I wish you success with your exercise. Thanks for your comments.

  • Barbara Kay profile image

    Barbara Badder 

    8 years ago from USA

    Interesting and good advice. I need to start exercising more again. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Susan, It is good that you have that awareness and I appreciate you comments. Thank you for posting it with others also.

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 

    8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    I have a fridge magnet that has all the warning signs of a heart attack that I've had for some time now. I found the diagonal ear lobe crease very interesting and I too had to check mine :) This is a very informative article. All women should be made aware of this. I will be sharing this hub and pinning it too.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    SubRon, Thank you for writing me back as I want to check out your book.

  • SubRon7 profile image

    James W. Nelson 

    8 years ago from eastern North Dakota

    Thank you, Pamela, for your condolences. Yes, when we were younger.... And thank you about my book. The title is "The light at the End of the Tunnel" I'll list my page URL too: Hopefully that won't be too self-promotional.

    Again, thank you.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Rustcliving, I'm glad you found the hub helpful and I appreciate your comments.

    Rebeccamealey, Thank you so much for your comments.

    Millionaire Tips, Of course, I agree that this information is important for women to know and I appreciate your comments.

    teaches, I'm glad your husband had his heart disease treated before he had a heart attack. My mother has 3 stents and I know they saved her life. Thanks so much for your comments.

    FullofLoveSites, I'm glad you liked the hub and I appreciate your comments.

  • FullOfLoveSites profile image


    8 years ago from United States

    Fantastic hub...really very helpful

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    8 years ago

    According to your poll, there are some very healthy hubbers who know what it takes to live well. Great news to know. My husband just had two stents placed in his coronary artery this month (yes, February is the heart month for him). We celebrated Valentine's day the fact that he was given more time to live. Great tips and advice. Voted up!

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    8 years ago from USA

    This is very important information for women to know. I appreciate you taking the time to bring this to the forefront.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 

    8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    A great summmary for what we should do to prevent heart disease. Thanks!

  • Rusticliving profile image

    Liz Rayen 

    8 years ago from California

    Thank you for giving us a this information. It's always nice to be aware of our bodies and how they speak to u. Very wll done! Kudos! Voted up and shared.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Lisa, I missed your comment when I was answering the first batch but I want to thank you and I'm not surprised you checked out your earlobes!

    Stephanie, Thank you so much for your comments.

    kellyrob, I appreciate your comments.

    SubRon, I'm sorry to hear about your girlfriend. It is so easy to overlook symptoms and just think it is not anything serious, which is why I like writing hubs to increase awareness. I think this is especially true when we are young. On a more positive note, congratulations on your book! That is fantastic news. I will check it out on Amazon but can you send me the title?

    vnsatakopan, Thank you for your comments.

  • vnsatakopan profile image

    Dr.Vangeepuram Navaneetham Satakopan 

    8 years ago from Chennai, India

    Interesting observations on female heart attacks.

  • SubRon7 profile image

    James W. Nelson 

    8 years ago from eastern North Dakota

    Very good hub, Pamela. It's almost 14 years ago that my girlfriend died of an aortic aneurism, I guess not a heart attack but related. Her symptoms were shortness of breath (twice that I noticed) a really rapid heartbeat that I noticed just once, but none of these symptoms prompted me to suggest anything to her, then. Today, maybe. Thank you for the enlightening hub.

    On a different note, you were one of the hubbers who gave me good reviews on that 3-part short story I wrote quite awhile back about worst-of-the-worst criminal Les Paul, capital punishment and reincarnation. Just to let you know, it now is 68,000 words and at Amazon (both digital and paperback) and has two 5-star reviews, both from our fellow hubbers.

    Again, thank you.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    This is much needed information. I've heard of the ear crease on Dr. Oz but forgot, thanks for the reminder. Voted useful and up!

  • Stephanie Henkel profile image

    Stephanie Henkel 

    8 years ago from USA

    It's not surprising that heart attacks in women are so dangerous when we don't recognize the symptoms. Thanks so much for the excellent information! (I'm checking ear lobes, too!) Voted up and shared!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Nell, I looked at my ears too when I first read about there being a connection. Thanks for your comments.

    always exploring, I'm glad to know your ears show no sign of vascular disease! I appreciate your comments.

    drbj, Thank you for your comments.

    Sunshine, I'm glad you found this hub educational and I very much appreciate your comments.

    Rolly, As always I appreciate your comments. God bless.

  • Rolly A Chabot profile image

    Rolly A Chabot 

    8 years ago from Alberta Canada

    Hi Pam... great hub and one to help others in seeing what is happening. Blessed to have been a reader of your fine work.


  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 

    8 years ago from Orlando, FL

    Excellent and very useful hub! Thank you for creating could possibly help save a life. Will share the word.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    8 years ago from south Florida

    This is very important and very useful information for all women to know. Thank you, Pamela, for bringing this to our attention.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    8 years ago from Southern Illinois

    I don't have a crease in my ear lobes, YEA..HaHa..All joking aside, this is a very educational article. Thank you Pamela...

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    8 years ago from England

    Hi, Pamela, a really useful hub, and the information is great, it is such a scary thing, especially realising that pains in the back etc can be a heart attack, like other readers above, I grabbed a mirror and looked at my ears! voted up and shared! nell

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Peggy, I appreciate the complement and you sharing it with your followers.

    jainismus, I'm glad you liked the hub and I appreciate your comments.

    Sinea Pies, I'm glad you found the hub helpful and I appreciate your comments.

    moonlake, That is so true. Younger women are having heart attacks and not recognizing the symptoms. I am not surprised that you have unusual symptoms. Thank you for your comments.

  • Lisa HW profile image

    Lisa HW 

    8 years ago from Massachusetts

    Pamela, you made me go into the other room and check my ear lobes - so far, so good. :)

  • moonlake profile image


    8 years ago from America

    Good hub, Women need this information. Many young women are having heart attacks. When my heart is acting up I get pain in my ear and in my finger.

  • Sinea Pies profile image

    Sinea Pies 

    8 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Thank you for the very important information. Any one of those symptoms I would probably have passed off as the change of life. Good to know that if I did have one, it might be something more serious.

  • jainismus profile image

    Mahaveer Sanglikar 

    8 years ago from Pune, India

    Well written and useful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    8 years ago from Houston, Texas

    This is important for people to know and you did a nice job on this hub, Pamela. Like Sunny Day, I will share this with my followers, etc.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Sunnie, I'm glad you liked the hub and I appreciate your comments and sharing it with friends.

  • profile image

    Sunnie Day 

    8 years ago

    This is a great hub. The video was so enlighting. As a nurse you do not hear about this near enough concerning woman. Thank you so much for sharing. I am going to facebook, tweat and share..up and awesome!


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