A Women’s Guide to Identifying Heart Attack Symptoms

Hey, amazing ladies, this article ‘A WOMEN’S GUIDE TO IDENTIFYING HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS’ is tailor-made just for you, and the age on your birthday cake doesn't matter! 

Let's chat about something crucial – recognizing the signs of a heart attack. Now, I know you're used to being the superheroes who keep everything running smoothly, often putting others first.

But here's the thing: by not giving yourself the attention you deserve, you might unknowingly risk your heart health.

Traditionally, you've been the caretaker, ensuring everyone around you thrives. However, this very role can make you more susceptible to serious health issues.

Have you ever heard the saying, "A car can't run on an empty tank"? Well, it's true, especially when it comes to your heart.

 Did you know that women, on average, wait longer before seeking help when they experience heart attack symptoms?

Your heart, your health

 Delaying that call to 999 can significantly reduce your chances of survival.

So, ladies, it's time to prioritize your health and well-being. Take a moment for yourself, read through this article, and empower yourself with the knowledge to safeguard your heart. Remember, you're important, and it's time to put yourself first – because a healthy you is a happy you!


I'd like to discuss the importance of caring for your heart. Contrary to the common belief that heart attacks primarily affect older men, it's essential to know that both men and women can experience a heart attack, and the primary signs are quite similar.

Woman grasping towards her heart

Here's the thing - the primary symptoms of a heart attack are the same for women as they are for men. However, there are subtle differences that women may experience during a heart attack.

Not knowing about these differences could mean not recognizing the signs on time. And time is crucial when it comes to a heart attack. Acting fast can help minimize damage to your heart.

The top cause of death among women in the UK is heart disease

The Heart Research Institute UK (HRI) reveals that the top cause of death among women in the UK is heart disease. It informs that coronary heart disease claims the lives of more than twice as many women as breast cancer.

This aligns with Professor Pearson's insights. Professor Jeremy Pearson, a prominent medical leader at the British Heart Foundation, highlights a common misconception – while many associate heart attacks more with men, in reality, more women in the UK succumb to heart disease than breast cancer. This misperception leads to unnecessary suffering and loss of life.

He emphasizes that when women experience symptoms of a heart attack, they often delay calling emergency services (999), significantly reducing their chances of survival. Taking quick action is crucial for improving outcomes.

In the UK, one in eight men and one in 14 women succumb to coronary heart disease, as noted by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Unfortunately, coronary heart disease (CHD) leads to more untimely deaths in women, occurring before their 75th birthday.

Each year, around 26,000 individuals under the age of 75 lose their lives to CHD in the UK.

Cardiovascular disease

Additionally, more than 30,000 women in the UK are hospitalized annually due to heart attacks. This highlights the importance of awareness and timely response to symptoms to enhance overall heart health outcomes for women.

Women's over 50 and healthy heart

Studies supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have uncovered that, in certain instances, women undergoing a heart attack are 50 percent more prone to receiving an inaccurate initial diagnosis compared to men.

Furthermore, they are less inclined to receive a pre-hospital ECG. In the UK, if someone might have a heart problem (acute coronary syndrome), the rules from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) say that both men and women should get the same check-up.

Heart and circulatory disease, also known as cardiovascular disease (CVD), includes various conditions that affect your heart and blood circulation.

If your heart and blood vessels aren't healthy, it can lead to heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney problems, troubles with your arteries, and even memory problems known as vascular dementia. Sadly, these issues tend to affect people more in poorer communities.

In the United States, more than 60 million women (44%) have some type of heart disease, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

Heart disease is the top cause of death for women in the U.S., and it can impact women of any age. In 2021, it caused the death of 310,661 women, accounting for about 1 in every 5 female deaths.

Statistics from the British Heart Foundation reveal that when it comes to your cardio health and heart attacks, it's crucial to understand the symptoms, causes, and risks.

Specifically, if you have a heart disease or have had a previous heart attack, your chances of experiencing a stroke are doubled. Understanding the signs of heart attack and the subtle differences for women is crucial It can be the difference between life and death.

Middle-aged woman holding her heart

That's why it's so important to spread the word and make more people aware. If more women know the signs, we can help reduce how many people lose their lives to heart attacks.

But it's not just about you. You can inspire others to take care of their hearts too.

Share what you know with your family and friends. Encourage everyone to do things that keep their hearts healthy. It's all about inspiring action for a heart-healthy life. Learn more in this article. Take care of your heart – it's worth it!


A heart attack (myocardial infarction) and coronary heart disease (coronary artery disease or CAD) are not the same, but they are related.

Heart Attack

A heart attack is like a sudden problem that happens when something blocks the blood flow to a part of the heart. This blockage can damage the heart muscle and cause symptoms like chest pain.

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

This is when the blood vessels (coronary arteries) supplying blood to the heart get narrow or blocked by stuff like cholesterol. It can lead to various heart problems.

So, think of coronary heart disease as a long-term condition that can eventually lead to a heart attack, which is a more immediate and serious event.

So, what can you do? Well, the first step is knowing the signs and not ignoring them. If you feel something isn't right, don't hesitate - seek medical help right away. Early detection and quick action can change the outcome.


What is a heart attack? When you have a heart attack, it means that a portion of your heart muscle suddenly doesn't get enough blood flow. This lack of blood and oxygen can cause significant damage to your heart.

women and heart attack symptoms

Most heart attacks are caused by Coronary heart disease, where atheroma, a fatty substance, builds up in coronary arteries over time.

If a piece of this atheroma breaks off, a blood clot can block the coronary artery, leading to a heart attack. 

While men and women can experience similar symptoms during a heart attack, studies and reports suggest that women may sometimes have difficulty recognizing these signs as indicative of a cardiac event.

Women might interpret the symptoms differently, potentially attributing them to heartburn or stress instead of immediately recognizing them as related to a heart attack. This underlines the importance of awareness and education about heart attack symptoms in both men and women.

Heart Attack Symptoms for Both Men and Women

Recognizing a heart attack is important. Look out for these common signs:

  1. 1
    Chest discomfort: Sudden pain or pressure in your chest that doesn't go away.
  2. 2
    Pain spreading: The pain may move to your left or right arm, neck, jaw, back, or stomach. It can be severe or just make you feel uneasy.
  3. 3
    Shortness of breath
  4. 4
    Feeling nauseous, sweaty, dizzy
  5. 5
    Unexplained tiredness
  6. 6
    You may suddenly feel anxiety, similar to a panic attack

Which Symptoms do you See More in Women than in Men?

We've talked about how the main signs of a heart attack are pretty much the same for both women and men. However, there are some small differences in the symptoms that women might experience during a heart attack.


Unusual Fatigue:

Feeling exceptionally tired or weak


Shortness of Breath: 

Difficulty breathing, even with minimal exertion.


Nausea or Vomiting: 

Feeling queasy or vomiting, which could be mistaken for stomach issues.


Back or Jaw Pain:

Discomfort or pain in the back, jaw, or upper abdomen (stomach area) instead of the typical chest pain.


Sleep Disturbances:

Trouble sleeping or heightened anxiety, which could be linked to an imminent heart attack.

While chest pain is a common symptom for both genders, women might experience subtler or atypical signs.

Regardless of gender, if someone shows potential signs of a heart attack, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial.


While rare, it's possible to have a heart attack without feeling any symptoms. This is called a silent heart attack.

Sometimes, people don't experience the usual signs like chest pain. It's a bit tricky because, without noticeable symptoms, someone might not realize they've had a heart attack.

This is more common in elderly people or people who have diabetes, due to the possibility of nerve damage, which influences how you feel pain.

Regular check-ups and paying attention to heart health are important, especially if there's a history of heart issues. If there's any doubt or if there are known risk factors, it's a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional.


Important advice
  1. If you have any of the above symptoms, don't wait. Call 999 (UK) right away for an ambulance. A heart attack is a serious medical emergency, and quick action can be life-saving, regardless of your gender.
  2. Sit down and stay calm.
  3. Take  300 mg of aspirin (as long as you are not allergic to this). Aspirin works by thinning the blood and improving the blood flow to the heart.

Avoid trying to reach the hospital on your own or relying solely on your partner for transportation. Instead, dial 999 and request an ambulance promptly.

Emergency medical professionals in the ambulance conduct crucial tests, including an Electrocardiogram (ECG), while transporting you to the hospital. The ECG is a vital test for suspected heart attacks. This test measures the electrical activity of your heart.

If you don’t think it is a heart attack or you think it is more likely that it is indigestion, then you can always call 111, to get advice.

During your hospital stay - at the heart clinic - healthcare professionals will evaluate various aspects of your health.

This involves checking your blood pressure, monitoring your heart rate and rhythm, conducting physical examinations, and performing an Electrocardiogram (ECG).

cardiologist and heart health

Additionally, the cardiologist will conduct an echocardiogram, commonly known as an "echo," providing a detailed view of the heart and nearby blood vessels.

To determine if you are experiencing a heart attack, a troponin test is often administered. This blood test is employed when doctors suspect a heart attack and measure a protein released by damaged heart cells during such an event.

Other terms for a heart attack include:

Other terms for a heart attack include: 

Myocardial infarction

Acute coronary syndrome

Cardiac infarction

Coronary thrombosis

Heart Episode

Cardiac event

From a paramedic's perspective on heart attacks, read Maggie Chung's (Australia) story.


Various factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack, especially in women aged 50 and above. These risk factors include:

Age: The risk of a heart attack tends to rise with age.

Gender: Men generally face a higher risk, although women's risk increases after menopause.

Family History: Having a family history of heart disease can increase your risk. If your father or brother had heart disease before 55, you are at a higher risk, and if your mother or sister had heart disease before 65, you are also at a higher risk, according to the HSS.

Smoking: Tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals that can damage blood vessels and heart tissue.

High Blood Pressure: Hypertension makes the heart work harder, elevating the risk of a heart attack.

High Cholesterol: Elevated levels of "bad" cholesterol can contribute to the build-up of artery-clogging plaques.

Diabetes: People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease.

Obesity: Being overweight or obese can contribute to other risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Physical Inactivity: Lack of regular exercise is associated with an increased risk of heart attack.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Consuming too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and contribute to heart disease.

Stress: While its precise role is still being studied, chronic stress may contribute to heart disease.

It's important to understand that having one or more of these risk factors doesn't guarantee a heart attack. Taking proactive steps through lifestyle changes, medication, and regular check-ups with a healthcare professional can help manage and reduce individual risk factors.


Preventing a heart attack involves adopting a healthy lifestyle. Here are key steps you can take:

Keep Moving
Engage in regular activities like walking or dancing to feel better and improve your sleep. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Keep a Healthy Weight and Eat a Balanced Diet
Eat a mix of good foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins to keep your overall health in check and reduce strain on your heart. Remember, being overweight or obese increases your chances of having heart disease.

Go easy on the alcohol
If you enjoy a drink, keep it below the recommended 14 units per week to take care of your heart.

Say NO to smoking

Say NO to smoking and tobacco
Quitting smoking and using tobacco is a significant step toward a healthier you and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Keep an Eye on Your Health Stats
Regularly check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. For those with diabetes, managing sugar levels is vital for heart health, as uncontrolled diabetes raises the risk.

High blood pressure often shows no symptoms, emphasizing the need for consistent monitoring. If readings are high, inform your healthcare team promptly. Maintain healthy cholesterol levels by adopting a balanced diet, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, staying hydrated, and avoiding smoking.

Reduce your stress levels
Chronic stress can contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems, so incorporating stress-reducing activities into your routine can have long-term benefits for your heart health. Coping with stress is vital for a healthy heart.

Here are simple ways:

  • Exercise: Boosts mood, improves sleep, and lowers stress
  • Deep Breathing: Activates relaxation response, reducing blood pressure.
  •  Social Connections: Spending time with loved ones reduces isolation and stress.
  • Time Management: Prioritize tasks to feel less overwhelmed and lower stress.
  • Mindfulness: Calms the mind, improving focus and heart health.
  • Adequate Sleep: Quality sleep is essential for overall health, including heart health.
  • Engaging Hobbies: Enjoyable activities provide a positive outlet for stress.
Exercise and keep fit

By taking these simple steps, you're actively safeguarding your heart and reducing the risk of a heart attack. Prevention is the key! Keep up the good work in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, ensuring you stay as healthy as possible.

Real-life stories of women who have experienced heart attacks

Learn about Carol Ighofose's heart attack experience, initially mistaken for a panic attack by medics.

Listen to Claudia's story, who had her cardiac event while walking her dogs.

Dina Pinella endured three heart attacks, and her story is truly remarkable.

Yvonne Bignall, a health advocate and best-selling author, promotes prioritizing oneself. Collaborating with busy professional women, she guides them in developing healthy habits.

Yvonne points out, "If individuals facing serious health issues can't prioritize self-care, it signals a problem. This concept extends to our everyday lives – we can't effectively assist others until we've tended to our own needs first."


There are some things women can do to take charge of their heart health using various gadgets at home. Here are some cardio health user-friendly options:

Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers: Devices like Apple Watches and Fitbits can keep track of your heart rate, giving you insights into your overall heart health.

Smart Scales: These scales provide info on your body composition and may offer insights into your cardiovascular health.

Mobile ECG Devices: Certain devices, like KardiaMobile or the newer Apple Watches, can record an electrocardiogram to provide more details about your heart rhythm.

Mobile Health Apps: Some apps work with your smart devices to monitor your heart rate, physical activity, and sleep patterns.

Pulse Oximeters: These measure the oxygen levels in your blood, offering insights into respiratory and circulatory health.
Remember, while these tools are helpful, they're not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns or notice anything unusual, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance.

How to Make Your Home Heart-Healthy?

Here are some simple ways families and caregivers can create a heart-healthy home:

Cooking Together: Prepare nutritious meals as a family. Include lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains while limiting unhealthy fats and sugars.

Staying Active: Encourage activities that get everyone moving. It could be a family walk, dance session, or sports—whatever makes everyone happy and active.

Regular Check-ups: Make sure everyone goes for regular health check-ups, including heart health screenings. Early detection can prevent bigger problems later on.
Friends walking together
Open Communication: Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable talking about their health. This helps in understanding and addressing concerns early. 

Consider talking to your family about your intentions and how you plan to prioritize self-care, preferably involving them. Explore taking turns preparing nutritious meals, going for walks as a family, or engaging in activities like tai chi with your partner or friend. 

Bringing everyone together in a positive way not only strengthens family bonds but also contributes to your heart health.
Remember, it's not just about one person; it's about the whole family working together to keep each other's hearts strong and healthy.
A woman's guide to identifying heart attack symptoms


Below are instances of extra information and resources that offer support for heart health, specialists, and communities for individuals at risk:


In a nutshell, this article focuses on "Caring for Your Heart: What Women Over 50 Need to Know."

We've discussed crucial topics, such as recognizing the signs of heart attack symptoms in women and understanding the causes and risks for those aged 50 and above.

The key message here is not to downplay any signs; as women, we should take them seriously and act promptly.

The article shares tips on living a heart-healthy life, and real-life stories from women who've faced heart attacks bring a personal touch to the insights.

Discover how technology can offer extra insights into your heart's well-being, serving as a helpful indicator for your overall health. If a general health check is available, seize the opportunity to gain more insights into your well-being.

Connecting with others in your community or online is valuable, and if you suspect a heart problem, act immediately.

It's all about empowering women over 50 with knowledge and tools for a healthy heart journey.

Happy heart, healthy heart

Birgit is a compassionate guide specializing in supporting senior women through life's transitions. Alongside her dedication to this cause, she finds joy in teaching piano, nurturing her garden, cherishing family moments, and enjoying walks. These activities fuel her creativity and bring depth and richness to her life.

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