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Articles » WOMEN WARNING! It Could Be a Heart Attack!: NWHIC

WOMEN WARNING! It Could Be a Heart Attack!: NWHIC

Article title: WOMEN WARNING! It Could Be a Heart Attack!: NWHIC

Conditions: Heart Attack

Source: NWHIC


WOMEN: WARNING! It Could Be a Heart Attack!

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Heart disease and stroke will kill almost 50% of all women in the United States.

It's not just a man's disease

Not all women and men experience heart attacks the same. In fact, the symptoms that some women report when they have a heart attack can be different than what some men report. A classic warning sign for heart attack in women is chest pain. However, women may also experience are other symptoms, such as nausea, shortness of breath or pain to the arm, shoulder or neck. Listen to your body. Don't ignore your symptoms. Get help fast.


The most common or "classic" warning* signs of heart attack are:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or burning pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms.
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.

Other warning* signs of heart attack are:

  • Unusual chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain.
  • Nausea or dizziness (without chest pain).
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing (without chest pain).
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness or extreme fatigue.
  • Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness.

*Not all the warning signs occur in every attack. Sometimes they go away and return. If some of these symptoms appear, get help fast. Medical science now offers treatments that can stop a heart attack in its tracks. Treatments are most effective if given within one hour of when the attack begins. However, only 1 in 5 patients get to the hospital emergency department within one hour of when their symptoms begin.

Heart Facts

  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of American women.

  • More than one in five women have some form of cardiovascular disease.

  • 459,841 people died in 1998 from heart attacks and other heart related events-almost half of those victims were women.

  • One out of three women compared with one out of four men will die within one year after having a heart attack.

  • A woman's chances of developing heart disease soar after she goes through menopause.

  • More women than men will suffer a second heart attack within four years after their first heart attack.

  • African American women are 60 percent more likely to die of coronary heart disease than white women.

  • Women with diabetes are 3 to 4 times more likely than men to develop heart disease.

  • Fewer than one in ten women today think that heart disease is their greatest health threat.

  • Diabetes doubles the risk of a second heart attack in women.



Women typically wait longer than men to call for help.


Don't delay. Minutes matter.

You Should KnowÖ

You Could Be at Risk for Heart Disease if You:
  • Smoke or use tobacco products
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol, including a high LDL (bad cholesterol), low HDL (good cholesterol) or high triglyceride levels ∑ Have a sedentary lifestyle, or get little physical activity
  • Are overweight
  • Have a family history of heart disease
  • Had early menopause (before age 40)
  • Already had a heart attack
  • Have high levels of stress, feeling little control over your environment
You Can Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease if You:
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Keep blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most-preferably all-days
  • Talk to your health care provider about screening tests for heart disease
  • Learn how to reduce and manage stress
  • Engage in activities that can improve heart health (gardening, walking, housecleaning, stair climbing, etc.)

Knowledge, Coupled with Action, is Power. Take Charge of Your Health!

Ask your health care provider some of the following questions about the risks you face as a woman and the preventive measures you should take.

  • What are my risk factors for heart disease?
  • What diseases in my family history should I be concerned about?
  • Do I need to lose or gain weight for my health?
  • What should I know about the effects of menopause on my health?
  • What is a healthy eating plan for me?
  • What kind of physical activity is right for me?
  • What is my blood pressure? Is it at a healthy level?
  • What are my cholesterol levels? Is that at a healthy level?


Cardiovascular diseases are diseases of the heart and blood vessel system, including heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, angina (chest pain) and coronary heart disease (blood vessel disease in the heart). Heart attacks, also called myocardial infarctions, result from coronary heart disease. A heart attack happens when an artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart. The blockage is usually caused by the buildup of plaque (deposits of fat-like substances) along the walls of these arteries.


This information was developed by the U.S. DHHS Office on Women's Health and the American Society of Echocardiography and written in collaboration with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) campaign, "Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs". For more information about the campaign and the National Heart Attack Alert Program, please contact NHLBI at 301-592-8573 or visit the web site For other inquiries, please visit the National Women's Health Information Center at or call 1-800-994-WOMAN (TDD: 1-888-220-5446).



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