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Signs and Symptoms

Heart disease symptoms can look and feel very different in men and women.

Although many women will have the classic crushing central chest pain, which is often thought of as the hallmark sign of a heart attack, women often experience three or more additional symptoms when they have a heart attack. Tragically, heart attack or sudden cardiac death can be the first symptom of coronary artery disease in women, especially younger women.

This underscores the importance of always knowing your risk factors for heart disease – you won't know if you don't get checked. High blood pressure, for example, is often called a "silent killer" because it has no symptoms. In other words, the only way to know if your blood pressure is high – or becoming too high – is to check your blood pressure readings over time. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attack and stroke.

What a Heart Attack Feels Like

Chest pain or discomfort is the most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women. But women are more likely than men to have additional symptoms as well, such as nausea and shortness of breath.

Chest Pain Can Feel LikeOther Symptoms Include
  • Chest pressure, tightness, squeezing or burning
  • Discomfort in your chest, shoulders, arms, back, neck, or jaw
  • Pain that travels down one or both arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual or extreme tiredness
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cold sweat
  • Anxiety

There are many ways CAD can be diagnosed. Visit the Exams and Tests section of our Coronary Artery Disease resource. 

The choices you make every day can play a large role in determining your risk for coronary artery disease and how quickly it might progress. Positive lifestyle changes are very important and can help to prevent CAD and delay its progression.

Listen to your body

Every 90 seconds in the United States a woman suffers a heart attack, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Keep in mind that that sudden, crushing chest pain, or pressure or tightness aren't the only signs of a heart attack.

If you have a worrisome feeling something is wrong, play it safe and call 911 right away. Let the health experts decide if you are having a heart attack or on the verge of a heart attack. Treatment is most effective if it's given within one hour of a heart attack starting.

  • Last Edited 10/28/2021