Signs of a Female Heart Attack and How to Prevent Heart Disease

Updated on June 12, 2018
Lipnancy profile image

Nancy worked as a social worker for 23 years. She now draws upon that experience to comprehensively explain different disorders.


A shocking fact, according to the American Heart Association, is that heart disease is the #1 killer of women, responsible for 1 in 3 deaths each year. Despite this alarming fact, many women are unaware of both the risk factors that increase their chances of having a heart attack, as well as the symptoms that frequently accompany it.

With the above statistic in mind, I feel that educating both men and women about heart disease is the best way to prevent further deaths. If I can stop one family from having to sit in the emergency room suffering from a heart issues, I will. Notice my exact choice of words, "family." It may be the patient experiencing the actual heart attack, but from my experience, the whole family suffers alongside the patient. In addition, the whole family may need to implement new life-style choices to help support the patient's health going forward.

The following article examines these concerns, while also looking at what women can do to decrease their likelihood of developing heart disease. Most importantly, it is critical to recognize the warning signs of a female heart attack.

How Do You Know if a Woman Is Having a Heart Attack?

The Cleveland Clinic warns that there are a number of symptoms associated with heart disease and female heart attacks. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for women to ignore the symptoms due to the belief that it is something else that is not life-threatening. Symptoms to look out for, include:

  1. Feeling chest pain and discomfort - Known as angina in the medical community, it is important for women to understand that chest pain can be anywhere in the chest and include a fullness or squeezing sensation. But in 40 percent of women, no chest pain occurs.
  2. According to WebMD, for women, the pain may radiate through their back, neck, jaw, and arms. The pain may or may not be constant and it may have a gradual or sudden onset.
  3. Stomach pain similar to that experienced with heartburn or a stomach ulcer, is more common in women. They may also feel as if something is sitting on their stomach. How do i know if i'm having a heart attack or indigestion? Indigestion pain remains constant within the stomach area. It does not go to the other parts of the body like the arm, shoulder, upper back or jaw. indigestion pain is will lessen by consuming antacids
  4. Women sometimes have troubles breathing or shortness of breath. She may have difficulty breathing with other pains associated with heart attacks.
  5. Nausea may come on with no apparent reason, and may be followed by dry heaves.
  6. Women often feel lightheaded.
  7. Sweating that breaks out without warning.
  8. Medicinenet discusses that for some women, extreme tiredness after a long period of sitting and resting can be a sign of heart disease, or more specifically a heart attack.
  9. A combination of flu-like symptoms from nausea and stomach pain to being extremely tired and lightheaded, it is not uncommon for women to mistake these symptoms to the flu and not seek medical assistance.

If you think you are having a heart attack, call for help immediately.
If you think you are having a heart attack, call for help immediately. | Source

What to Do When You Think You Are Having a Heart Attack?

If you or someone you know is having any of the above symptoms, it is crucial that you seek medical help immediately. Do not delay calling 911 or going to the emergency room. For every thirty minutes you delay your treatment after a heart attack, the one year mortality rate increases by 7.5 percent. Regardless of whether it is the middle of the night or in the middle of a snowstorm, a holiday, or Sunday morning, there is no legitimate reason for waiting to get medical attention.

Don't Delay Getting Help

If you or someone you know is having any of the above symptoms, it is crucial that you seek medical help immediately. Do not delay calling 911 or going to the emergency room.

Risk Factors for Heart Attack Shared by Men and Women

According to the Mayo Clinic, men and women share a number of risk factors, there are other factors that are almost only seen in women. Risk factors seen in both sexes include:

  1. Men and Women over the age of 55 have a higher chance of having a heart attack.
  2. Hypertension also known as high blood pressure, damages the body’s arteries by speeding up the hardening of the arteries, a process known as atherosclerosis.
  3. High amounts of cholesterol, particularly LDL, in the body cause a plaque to form in the arteries that inhibits blood flow.
  4. Anyone who has a family history of heart disease is at a higher risk for developing the disease themselves.
  5. A Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 (being overweight) often results in hypertension and high cholesterol, which is a precursor to heart disease.
  6. Living Sedentary lifestyle, this includes getting too little exercise and eating a diet filled with unhealthy foods.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle may lead to heart disease.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle may lead to heart disease. | Source

Unique Risk Factors for Heart Attacks In Women

According to the American Heart Association, there are different issues within a woman's body that may make them pre-disposed to heart attacks.

  1. After a woman has gone through menopause, her lower levels of estrogen can make her blood vessels become smaller.
  2. It is not known why, but smoking contributes to women and heart attacks more than in men.
  3. The combination of high blood pressure with bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol, high blood sugar. On women this settles in the stomach area. In other words, that extra weight around the belly can be leading to a problem.
  4. Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus increases a woman’s risk.
  5. Although breast cancer itself doesn’t increase risks, the chemotherapy and radiation treatments that are often taken for it increase the chances of developing heart disease.
  6. Complications during pregnancy from gestational diabetes, to high blood pressure, and delivering a premature baby increase risks.
  7. Eighty percent of woman between the ages of 40 and 60 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. However, many have two or more risk factors.

Put Flaxseed and Chia Seed in a green drink. Wonderful source of Omega-3.
Put Flaxseed and Chia Seed in a green drink. Wonderful source of Omega-3. | Source

Reducing the Risks of Heart Disease and Heart Attacks In Women

Heart disease can develop as early as your late teens, so it is important for every woman to take every measure possible to decrease their risks. The following tips will are designed to do just that:

1. WebMD explains to watch what you eat and make it your goal to eat a healthy diet. Opt in for heart healthy foods, such as fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, berries, and almonds. In addition, focus on getting fresh produce and plenty of fiber, while staying away from unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats. This will reduce your risk by making it easier for you to maintain a healthy weight, as well as lowering your cholesterol level and helping to keep it within an acceptable levels.

2. Get plenty of regular exercise. It is recommended to get at least 30 minutes moderately intense exercise most five days a week.

3. Smoking is considered the leading preventable cause of heart disease in women. In fact, over 50 percent of heart attacks experienced by middle-aged women are linked to smoking.

4. Acconding to Dr. Axe, famous natural doctor, controlling your stress levels plays a large role in preventing heart diseasee. From acupuncture to meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises, there are plenty of ways to keep your stress level in check, thus reducing your risk of heart disease. Even physical exercise can lower your stress levels an improve sleeping habits.


5. Discuss nutritional supplements with your doctor. There are a number of herbs and other supplements that have been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. However, it is always important to speak with your doctor before adding anything along these lines to your daily regimen. You may want to consult a naturalist doctor as well. They are knowledgeable in different herbs and foods that may help you.

6. Also research vitamins that reduce your risks. A number of vitamins, including the B vitamins, vitamin E and CoQ10 have been shown to prevent heart disease. Again, it is very important to consult your doctor before taking any new vitamins or supplements.

Consult Your Doctor

Before taking any new supplements, herbs, or vitamins, always consult with your doctor or health professional.

My mother and I
My mother and I | Source


As the number one cause of death in women, heart disease takes mothers from their children, children from the mothers, wives from their spouses, and sisters from their siblings without any regard to what impact this loss may have on those left behind. If you are a woman, do what you can to prevent this from happening to your loved ones.

Do you know a woman under the age of 70 who has had a heart attack?

See results


  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Web MD
  • American Heart Association
  • Medicinnet
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Dr. Axe

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • profile image

      Lucie Daoust 

      2 years ago

      Good information.thank you.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I feel that is all we can do is watch our own health and pay attention to the latest information. Regarding you being more at risk, I believe that all you can do is watch your own habits. Many times diseases run in families simply because they eat the same foods and have the same health habits. Hope this helps.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      4 years ago from Brazil

      Although I don't personally know a woman who has had a heart attack, my father died at 42 after having a heart attack, his third. If a male in the family has a heart attack does that make the women also more at risk? I don't think I have read that before.

      It is something I worry about but I do many of the things you suggest. Keep my weight under control, I don't smoke, exercise and I try and have flax seeds daily. I find they are excellent for menopausal symptoms. I didn't know they were beneficial for a healthy heart, it's good to know.

      Your hub is clearly written and packed full of good information.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I have heard this. Aspirin slows down the blood clotting during a heart attack. Many doctors recommend taking one baby aspirin a day in the prevention of heart attacks.

    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 

      4 years ago from United States

      My mother in law had a heart attack and the experts say the aspirin saved her life. Curious if you had heard about this and how to use?

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Yes, it is really an article meant for everyone's education.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      It is important for men to recognize these signs too, so we can help protect our wives. Great advice.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Me too. It is important to know.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Such important information. What is more important is actually taking this information and acting on it. :) You better believe, at 67, that I'm aware and acting on it. I want to be around for a few more years. :)

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I will check out your site. Thanks for the read.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thank you for pinning.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      4 years ago from Carson City

      Nancy. You have covered this issue very well, clearly & thoroughly. I would KNOW. I suffered a heart attack & had a stent placement 10 years ago. If you would like to read about it, check my site.

      Thank you for providing this info to your readers.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Well presented and important information. Pinned!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      This is a very important hub -- well researched and presented. Sharing.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      According the the American Heart Association, "Women ages 18-55 years old tend to be less healthy and have a poorer quality of life than similar-aged men before suffering a heart attack, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2013." I am not sure if this answers your question.

    • Happy Moment profile image


      4 years ago from The Eastern Bypass

      I know a grandmother of about 80 years who died because of heart attack. Do women have higher risks of getting heart attack than men? If yes what is the biological mechanism or reason behind this. Thank you for this informative article.


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