Heart Attacks in Women – Causes and Symptoms

For years the idea persisted that women were unlikely to experience a major coronary event due to the protection afforded by certain female hormones. While there is shred of truth is this long held view we now know that by age 65 women are just as likely as men to have a serious heart problem, and more likely to die from it. With the average age of a heart attack being 66 years of age one could quickly come to the conclusion that women and men are both equally at risk.

A heart attack occurs when near to total blockage of one of the coronary arteries occurs, this condition is known as myocardial infarction. In most cases this event comes to a crescendo when a blood clot forms in a part of the coronary artery which has already been narrowed by the accumulation of arterial plaque. This would explain why an unexpected heart attack can occur in women without any warning signs or symptoms.

Heart attack symptoms in women are generally severe with some describing the event as someone sitting on their chest. Generally, the pain and tightness starts in the chest, quickly spreading through the upper body into the neck, arm, shoulder, or jaw, and does not go away with rest. Symptoms in women more often than not consist of generalized pain rather than the more specific and localized variety seen in men.

For women who are over the age of 60, or those with diabetes a heart attack may occur with no pain. This phenomenon is known as a silent heart attack.

With or without pain symptoms in women will almost always include one or more of these heart related symptoms: sporadic or constant pressure or squeezing in the chest; pain emanating from the chest to the shoulders, neck, arm, and jaw; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing without chest pain; a fast or irregular heart beat (palpitations); an abnormally fast or weak pulse; a change in facial coloring (graying); extreme fatigue, anxiety, or weakness with no apparent cause; cold sweats; dizziness; and stomach upset.

Note: One of the of a serious coronary blockage in women listed above is jaw pain. This is a common heart attack symptom in women and often overlooked both by caregivers and doctors alike. If you are experiencing jaw pain and no reason can be found for your discomfort, you should seek immediate medical attention to determine whether or not you are having a heart attack.

If any of the signs above are noticed seek immediate medical attention. It is important to point out that when a severe heart attack occurs your cells are deprived of oxygen and will begin to die in 4 minutes or less.