Heart Disease Home > Women and Heart Attacks

Many people believe that heart attacks don't happen to women. This is untrue. As a matter of fact, heart disease -- including heart attacks -- is the leading cause of death among women.

An Overview of Women and Heart Attacks

Many people believe that women do not have heart attacks. This may be one reason why research studies show that women are less likely to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack.
Consider the following statistics:
  • One in three American women dies of heart disease or a heart attack (1 in 23 women die from breast cancer)
  • Women account for nearly one half of all heart attack deaths
  • Thirty-eight percent of women will die within 1 year after having a heart attack
  • Within six years of having a heart attack, about 46 percent of women become disabled with heart failure
  • Two thirds of women who have a heart attack fail to make a full recovery.
It is true that women usually have heart attacks about 10 years later than men. It is also true that symptoms of a heart attack in women can be different than symptoms in men.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Common symptoms of a heart attack in women include:
  • Pain or discomfort (often a pressure-like pain) in or around the chest, shoulders, jaw, neck, back, or arms. It may feel like a squeezing, pressing sensation in the chest.
  • Indigestion or heartburn-type sensation (see Heartburn or Heart Attack?).
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach).
  • Fatigue.
  • Shortness of breath (feeling like you can't get enough air).
  • Sweating.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Weakness.
In about 20 percent of heart attack cases, women do not have pain or discomfort. They may just experience some of the other symptoms, such as shortness or breath or nausea.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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