Health Library

Reviewed 11/28/2020

Women and heart attacks: True or false?

Heart disease is just as much a concern for women as men. But heart attacks can have different symptoms in women. What's your heart attack IQ?

True or false: Breast cancer kills more women than heart disease.

False. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and a big risk factor for having a heart attack. Cancer—including breast cancer—is the second leading cause of death for women.

True or false: Heart attack symptoms can differ between men and women, but chest pain is the most common symptom for both.

True. The pain can feel like a heavy pressure, squeezing or fullness around your heart or in your chest. It might feel like heartburn or indigestion. Usually it lasts for more than a few minutes, but it can sometimes go away and come back. If you have chest pain or discomfort, call 911.

True or false: Women are less likely than men to survive a heart attack.

True. One reason may be that women have heart attacks at older ages than men. Women also are more likely to have less-common symptoms—such as shortness of breath; nausea and vomiting; and pain in the back, neck or jaw. They may wait to seek help or be misdiagnosed.

True or false: One heart attack symptom that women may ignore is feeling unusually tired.

True. One of the most common symptoms women having a heart attack report is feeling weak and having little energy, sort of like having the flu. The fatigue can come on suddenly or occur over several days.

True or false: If a woman thinks she's having a heart attack, the first thing she should do is take an aspirin.

False. The first thing anyone—male of female—should do is call 911. Taking aspirin may be a good follow-up action, but it's best to wait for the emergency operator's instructions.

Heart disease can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or race. But certain factors may up your risk. Talk to a doctor about your risk—and what you can do to prevent a heart attack.

Are you at risk for a heart attack

The signs of a heart attack in women

Sources: American Heart Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Office on Women's Health

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This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.