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Warning Signs of Heart Attack in Men and Women

February 28, 2019


Heart attack warnings are hard to come by. They can happen at any time, even to someone who appears healthy. But there are certain warning signs of heart attack in men and women that should never be ignored. 

You'll experience a heart attack if blood flow to a part of your heart is blocked. This is often caused by a blood clot. Blood clots form from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances, in blood vessels called plaque. If your body was able to send out heart attack warnings this is when it would occur.
But since heart attack warnings aren't like thunderstorm warnings you'll have to pay attention to other signals your body may be sending. There are some warning signs of heart attack in men and women that should always have you calling for help. 

Heart Attack Warnings

 The American Heart Association says to call 911 if you experience any of the following:
  • Chest discomfort: This is one of the telltale warning signs of heart attack in men and women. Your chest pain will last more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: As heart attack warnings go, take this one seriously. It can occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Rapid or irregular pulse:  This is one of those heart attack warnings you should especially pay attention to when it's accompanied by weakness, dizziness, or shortness of breath. It's another one of the clear warning signs of heart attack in men and women. It may also signify heart failure, or an arrhythmia.
  • Dizziness: Lightheadedness has already been mentioned as one of the heart attack warning signs you should take seriously. Dizziness and lightheadedness can be caused by potentially dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities.
  • Coughing: Persistent coughing or wheezing can be a symptom of a heart attack. It may be a result of fluid accumulation in the lungs. (Watch for bloody phlegm.)
  • Fatigue: This is especially true during heart attacks in women.  Unusual fatigue is one of those heart attack warning signs that can start in the days, or even weeks leading up to one.
  • Weakness: In the days leading up to a heart attack, as well as during one, you may experience severe, unexplained weakness
  • Nausea:  A lack of appetite is one of the warning signs of heart attack in men and women that may not be taken too seriously. Many people feel sick to their stomach or throw up during a heart attack.
  • Sweating: Breaking out in a cold sweat is one of the most common heart attack warnings you'll experience.
  • Swelling: Swelling is one of those warning signs of heart attack in men and women that isn't often talked about.  Heart failure can cause fluid to accumulate in your body. Swelling typically occurs in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen. You may also experience sudden weight gain and sometimes a loss of appetite.
  • Anxiety: Heart attack survivors often talk about having experienced a sense of "impending doom."

The most common warning sign of heart attack in men and women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Back or jaw pain.

If you've been diagnosed with heart disease or are experiencing symptoms of heart disease you should talk to your doctor. Being aware of heart attack warning signs will help you in an emergency, but eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising will decrease your overall risk. 

To learn more about what you can do to decrease your risk of developing heart disease, you can download our guide: "Heart Disease Facts That Could Change Your Life." Inside you'll find the risk factors that should matter most to you.

How to tell if you'll have a heart attack