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Women Heart Attack Symptoms

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 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 the 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 EarLobe 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.

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  • 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.

Why is Heart Disease Misunderstood in Women

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

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.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 27, 2012:

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

U M Hiram from Midwest on August 27, 2012:

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

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 27, 2012:

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 from a southern georgia peach on August 27, 2012:

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.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 08, 2012:

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

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 13, 2012:

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.

conradofontanilla on April 13, 2012:

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.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 13, 2012:

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 from Philippines on April 13, 2012:


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."

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 21, 2012:

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.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on March 21, 2012:

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.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 05, 2012:

Robert, I appreciate your comment.

Roberta99 on March 05, 2012:

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

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 29, 2012:

Lady E, I appreciate your comments.

Elena from London, UK on February 29, 2012:

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

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 28, 2012:

jessicasol, Thank you for your comments.

jessicasol on February 28, 2012:

Interesting and very useful hub... :)

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 27, 2012:

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

Barbara Badder from USA on February 27, 2012:

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

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 27, 2012:

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

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on February 27, 2012:

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.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2012:

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

James W. Nelson from eastern North Dakota on February 23, 2012:

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.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2012:

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 from United States on February 22, 2012:

Fantastic hub...really very helpful

Dianna Mendez on February 22, 2012:

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!

Shasta Matova from USA on February 22, 2012:

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

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on February 22, 2012:

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

Liz Rayen from California on February 22, 2012:

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.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2012:

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.

Dr.Vangeepuram Navaneetham Satakopan from Chennai, India on February 22, 2012:

Interesting observations on female heart attacks.

James W. Nelson from eastern North Dakota on February 22, 2012:

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.

kelleyward on February 22, 2012:

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 from USA on February 22, 2012:

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!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2012:

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 from Alberta Canada on February 22, 2012:

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


Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on February 22, 2012:

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

drbj and sherry from south Florida on February 22, 2012:

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

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 22, 2012:

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 from England on February 22, 2012:

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

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2012:

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 from Massachusetts on February 22, 2012:

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

moonlake from America on February 22, 2012:

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 from Northeastern United States on February 22, 2012:

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.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on February 22, 2012:

Well written and useful. Thanks for sharing.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 22, 2012:

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.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2012:

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

Sunnie Day on February 22, 2012:

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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