Unusual Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Cardiovascular diseases affect both men and women, particularly once they reach adulthood. In countries like the United States and Spain, these diseases have become the number one cause of death in women, surpassing others like breast and ovarian cancer.

The thing that’s of biggest concern to health experts is that women tend to see a doctor less often, and later, than men about health problems. This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons that female mortality from cardiovascular diseases has increased.

Heart attacks are characterized by a set of common symptoms that let you know you’re suffering from this serious condition. But in the case of many women, the symptoms of an attack can easily be confused with other health problems, which can lead to inaction or the lack of a proper response.

Risk factors

A heart attack can occur at any time, without warning. But there are certain risk factors that increase your chances of suffering from this problem at some point in your life:

• Diabetes
• High blood pressure
• Smoking
• High cholesterol
• Obesity
• Leading a sedentary lifestyle

Most people who lead a healthy lifestyle have a reduced risk of ever experiencing a heart attack. Of course, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other, less predictable factors like congenital heart defects or other problems that could lead to an attack.

Unusual heart attack symptoms in women

In many cases, the following atypical heart attack symptoms can be confusing to both the patient and the medical professional who is examining them. In fact, many experts concede that if they were shown the same symptoms again, they likely wouldn’t come to the conclusion that the underlying problem is a heart attack. But in special cases, such as those who are predisposed to suffer from cardiovascular problems, there’s a greater likelihood that doctors would recognize what’s happening and perform the proper exam. In any case, whether or not you possess any of the above risk factors, it’s important that all women be aware of the unusual symptoms that a heart attack can have, and bear in mind that they may persist for days, or even weeks.

Feeling tired

A feeling of constant tiredness is often attributed to getting poor sleep, taking certain medications, or frequently being exposed to stressful situations. But if your fatigue occurs all the time or is extremely severe, it could be the first sign of a heart attack or heart disease. In a study of women who survived a heart attack, 70% of respondents reported having feelings of extreme tiredness in the days and weeks leading up to it.


Closely linked to the symptom above, insomnia could be considered another unusual symptom of heart attacks in women. While a number of factors can trigger insomnia, one study found that nearly half of women who have had a heart attack also experienced trouble sleeping in the prior days and weeks.

Coughing and shortness of breath

Maybe you’re not suffering from a respiratory problem, yet suddenly have trouble breathing deeply. Difficulty breathing can occur when you do your daily activities, but when coupled with an unexplained cough it could also be an early warning sign of a heart attack. Don’t forget, however, it could be caused by numerous other health problems.

Heartburn and bloating

Feeling a burning sensation or inflammation of the abdomen after eating could also be an early symptom of a heart attack in women. One study found that 40% of women who suffered from a heart attack experienced these issues only moments before.

Dizziness and profuse sweating

While these two symptoms are more commonly related to menopause, it’s also been found that dizziness and profuse sweating can appear just before a heart attack. Of women who survived a heart attack, 40% of them recalled a feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness immediately before it. Another 40% complained of cold sweats.

Anxiety with no clear cause

Unexplained anxiety is one final symptom that you should remember, especially if it’s accompanied by tightness in the chest. A third of female victims of a heart attack experienced an inexplicable feeling of anxiety just before it struck. Additionally, you should also know that stress and anxiety can actually increase your risk of having a heart attack in the first place.