Heart Attack: What WOMEN Need to Know

Li Zhang, MD – Cleveland Clinic Florida Cardiologist

February 2, 2018

We always associate chest pain with heart attacks, and for good reason, but it’s not the whole story, especially for women. While chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack, women can have symptoms that aren’t related to chest pain at all. They need to be on the lookout for other, subtler symptoms.

Some heart attack symptoms experienced by women can include:

  • Unusual fatigue or sleep disturbances, despite feeling exceptionally tired
  • Sweating and/or shortness of breath, especially if accompanied by chest pain or fatigue
  • Neck, jaw and back pain whose origin is hard to pinpoint
  • Arm pain in either arm – not just the left one like many men

What to do if you notice symptoms

Women often say they noticed some of these three warning signs weeks or a month before a heart attack. The sooner you report a problem, the better the chances are of catching an issue before it becomes a full-blown heart attack.

If you experience any of these symptoms, take note and visit your doctor as quickly as possible. Your doctor likely will listen to your symptoms and check your pulse and blood pressure. He or she may order blood work, which will show whether your heart is damaged.

Your doctor also may use an electrocardiogram (ECG) to tell whether the electrical activity of your heart is normal, or an echocardiogram (echo) to view images of the heart to see if damage has occurred, or a cardiac stress test to detect if there is significant blockage in the blood vessels around your heart.

When to call 9-1-1

Get help right away if you have chest pain or discomfort along with any of the symptoms listed above, particularly if they last longer than five minutes. Getting immediate medical attention could save your life.


It's 'Love Your Heart' Month with LITE FM & Cleveland Clinic Florida! There are several easy-to follow diet and lifestyle changes that you can adapt to help significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Get heart smart! 

For a consultation with a Cleveland Clinic Florida specialist call 866.293.0621, or visit clevelandclinicflorida.org/loveyourheart.