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Heart Disease Health Center

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Women's Heart Attacks: How They Differ

Learn how women's symptoms can differ. Have a heart-attack attack plan. You can save a life.
WebMD Feature

If your husband has chest pain, you rush him to the hospital. However, many women would not recognize signs of heart attack in themselves.

Many people are unaware that heart attack symptoms in women can be quite different from men's. In fact, most people don't have a plan of action if faced with possible heart attack. Yet acting quickly is vitally important.

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Recognizing Heart Attack, Stroke, and Angina

Doctors call it the "Hollywood heart attack": a middle-aged man breaks into a cold sweat, grimaces, and clutches his chest-just like in the movies. Trouble is, in real life, heart attack symptoms don't always announce themselves so dramatically. More often they are insidious and puzzling, such as unexplained fatigue or abdominal discomfort, and many people wait for hours before seeking help. Big mistake, doctors tell WebMD. The ability to quickly spot signs of heart attack, angina, and stroke can...

Read the Recognizing Heart Attack, Stroke, and Angina article > >

"Getting immediate, appropriate care is the single most important thing you can do to lessen the damage of a heart attack," says Prediman K. Shah, MD, director of cardiology and atherosclerosis research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in New York City, in a news release.

Dial 911 for an ambulance. "Do not waste time trying to reach your own doctor," says Shah. "Don't drive yourself or someone else to the hospital ... don't call a cab."

Why? "Because within the first few hours after a heart attack, there is a high risk of sudden fatal arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), and only ambulances with fire department personnel or paramedics are equipped to revive you should your heart suddenly stop beating," says Shah.

"Remember, every minute of delay means more heart muscle is damaged," he says. "When it comes to heart attack, time is muscle."

Symptoms of a Heart Attack -- in Both Men and Women:

Symptoms More Likely in Women:

Your Action Plan:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Provide one aspirin to chew. Heart attacks are caused by blood clots in heart arteries, and aspirin helps reduce these clots.
  • Give CPR if the patient is not breathing.
  • Get to the hospital quickly. The longer it takes to get treated, the more badly damaged the heart will be.

If you don't know CPR, find a class and sign up. It's easy to learn, and it can save lives after a heart attack.

Reviewed on February 15, 2005

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