How heart attack symptoms show up differently in men and women

A man and woman wearing face masks

Whether you need emergency care for chest pain or long-term heart disease management, cardiovascular teams across HCA Healthcare offer comprehensive heart care.  With experts in cardiovascular disease, interventional cardiology, electrophysiology and cardiovascular and vascular surgery – we’re uniting this American Heart Month to advocate cardiovascular health and raise awareness about heart disease. 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), approx. every 40 seconds, someone experiences a heart attack in the U.S. While some heart attack symptoms, like chest pain, are common across the board, other heart attack symptoms can vary between men and women. Women, especially, can experience non-chest pain symptoms during a heart attack that are less recognizable.

Heart attack symptoms in men

Compared to women, men have a greater chance of experiencing a heart attack and at an earlier stage in life. These are some common male-specific heart attack symptoms to watch for:

  • Back, neck or jaw pain
  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting or nausea

Heart attack symptoms in women

Even though men are more susceptible to heart attacks, heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women. This can be attributed to heart attack symptoms specific to women that can commonly go unnoticed and delay necessary treatment. Some female-specific heart attack symptoms that often go unrecognized include:

  • Discomfort in the neck, jaw or arms
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lower back pain
  • Nausea, or flu-like symptoms

Remember, if you suspect a heart attack is occurring, call 9-1-1 right away. A heart attack is a serious medical condition that needs immediate attention.

A close up of a woman's hands over her heart

Lifestyle changes to prevent heart risks

Though the thought of you or a loved one experiencing a cardiac event can be frightening, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk by up to 80%, according to the AHA. To improve your heart health and reduce your risk of a heart attack, try implementing these simple steps recommend by the AHA:

  • Avoid or quit smoking
    Smoking can increase the chances of contracting a stroke or heart attack.
  • Drink in moderation
    Excessive drinking can raise blood pressure and increase the chances of stroke and other health diseases.
  • Lower high blood pressure
    Take recommended medication and shake-off the desire for salt to reach an optimal blood pressure that’s less than 120/80 mmHg.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
    Try to watch your weight. Obesity can increase the risks of insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Select a heart-healthy diet
    Choose a diet with nutrient-rich foods and emphasize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to positively impact various controllable heart-risk factors.
  • Stay active everyday
    A minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity can lower your blood pressure, weight and cholesterol.
  • Stress less
    Find healthy ways to manage your stress. Studies show stress can enhance the risk factors for stroke and heart diseases.

Talk to your doctor about your about your heart health. Your doctor can work with you to review your family and medical history and develop a plan to reduce your risk of heart disease and better your overall health.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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