Early Signs of a Heart Attack in Women: This is How a Heart Attack Occurs

Early Signs of a Heart Attack in Women: Even today, a heart attack in women is often diagnosed late – on the one hand, because it is still considered a “man’s affair”. On the other hand, women show atypical symptoms that even doctors misinterpret.

The most common cause of death for women and men is cardiovascular disease. Around a third of the 940,000 deaths in 2018 were responsible for this. 46,200 people died of heart attacks , including 19,300 women and 26,900 men.

Delay to the Emergency Room:

In relative terms, the event ends fatally for more women than men, namely 43 percent versus 37 percent. One of the reasons for this is that heart attack patients take longer to finally get to a hospital emergency room. If women suffer from myocardial infarction, it takes an average of 108 minutes to call the rescue center, almost half an hour longer than in the case of a man, for whom the emergency call is made within 80 minutes.

The reason for the risky delay is atypical heart attack symptoms. Men especially feel severe, stabbing pains in the chest that radiate to the left arm and neck. This warning sign often does not appear in women. You are more likely to experience pain in your upper abdomen, back, neck, or jaw. Often times they feel sick and vomit. This is why those affected and some doctors think of an upset stomach or food poisoning rather than an acutely life-threatening situation.

This is How a Heart Attack Occurs:

A heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks one of the coronary arteries. If the blood flow cannot be restored quickly, the heart muscles die from the lack of oxygen in two to four hours. The longer the infarct remains undetected and untreated, the more serious the damage. Many sufferers develop chronic heart failure as a result.

The Typical Symptoms of a Heart Attack:

Every year many people suffer a heart attack. The usual signs are:

  • You feel a sudden onset of severe and stabbing pain that lasts longer than five minutes, or a feeling of pressure or heaviness behind your sternum.
  • The pain radiates to the left arm (less often both or the right), neck, or jaw.
  • You feel tight in your chest.
  • Cold sweat forms.
  • You get sick.
  • You suffer from shortness of breath.
  • You are overwhelmed by restlessness and fear.

Early Signs of a Heart Attack in Women:

Women experience the strong, stabbing pain in the chest less often, but much more often pressure or tightness. These are the main signs:

  • You feel short of breath, your breathing stops.
  • You are plagued by pain in the upper abdomen and stomach.
  • You feel sick and vomit.
  • Burning pains in your chest radiate into your arms, neck, and shoulders.
  • You are tired and feel bruised.
  • You break out in a sweat.

Since the symptoms are not considered to be that typical of a heart attack, call the emergency doctor yourself and your loved ones late or not at all.

Women Suffer “other” Heart Attacks:

It is not just a lack of knowledge about the different nature of female symptoms that women die more often than men from heart attacks and their consequences. Another reason for this is that women suffer “other” heart attacks: at the time of the incident, they are statistically ten years older and more often have comorbidities such as diabetes.


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In addition, heart attacks in women are less likely to be triggered by local vasoconstriction, which can be enlarged relatively easily. Instead, the heart arteries are more often diffusely affected. Local expansion attempts are not very promising in these cases.

The Dangerous First Year:

A study found that the mortality of women in the first 365 days after the heart attack is one and a half times that of men.


“In everyday life after a heart attack, women are often faced with different demands than men. They should ‘work’ again faster and are therefore exposed to greater stress. “


Another important factor is depressive illness. Studies have shown that these are not only dangerous in themselves, but also represent a risk factor in other diseases.

The Risk Factors of Heart Attack

In principle, the same risks apply to women as to men:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Too high cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Psychosocial factors (e.g. stress)

However: up to the menopause, the female sex hormones (oestrogens) protect women against narrowing of the coronary arteries (arteriosclerosis) and thus against infarction. The exception are women smokers who use birth control pills. You have an increased risk of a heart attack.

The first four factors in particular – smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels- have a decisive influence on the risk of heart attacks. The likelihood that someone who does not have any of these factors will have a heart attack in their lifetime is less than five percent. Just one of the four can multiply the normal risk. Conversely, if you manage to avoid the four factors, you can almost eliminate your personal risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke.

Prevent a Heart Attack

If you want to reduce your risk of heart attack, you can do it through a healthy lifestyle. This includes:

  • Do not smoke.
  • Practice a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Watch your cholesterol levels.
  • Maintain normal weight.
  • Rely on endurance training, preferably five times a week for 30 minutes.
  • Avoid stress and overload.
  • Get regular checkups. Have your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checked regularly.

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