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  • Marilyn Buckley, CHHC

Know the signs of a Heart Attack!


A HEART ATTACK or MI (MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION) is a life-threatening event caused by a disruption of blood flow to the heart muscle.

Men and Women experience different symptom’s and women’s symptoms can very easily be overlooked as stress and a number of other things. Know the differences.


Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack and one that most people are familiar with.

The expectation is that a heart attack will come on quite suddenly and with women this is not always the situation. Research has shown that a woman can experience symptoms and signs for weeks before the event.

Symptoms can be constant or simply come and go and these symptoms may be attributed to stress, disrupted sleep, etc.

Chest Pain:

This is the most common symptom in both men and women and is often described as:




Pressure or fullness

** Women can have a heart attack without ever having chest pain


Unusual fatigue – can occur weeks before the heart attack

Often, usual activities can bring on fatigue not noticed before the event


Experiencing weakness or feeling shaky is a common acute symptom in women along with feeling weak, they may also experience:





Shortness of Breath

Hard to breathe or feeling like you’re unable to take a complete breath especially when accompanied by fatigue or chest



Excessive sweating without having a cause (working out, running, etc.)

Feeling cold or clammy

Upper Body Pain

This may include:




Upper back

Both arms or usually the left

Pain can be sudden or gradual

Sleep Disturbances

A study from 2003 reported sleep issues in women were experienced in the weeks leading up to their heart attacks.

These may include:

Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

Unusual waking throughout the night

Feeling tired in the morning even though they slept through the night

Digestive Issues

Many women may feel pain or even some type of pressure in their stomach before a heart attack. But other digestive symptoms may include:




Post-Menopausal Women

The risk of a heart attack increases in women after menopause due to the decreased levels of estrogen.

Risk Factors


Family History

Diet and Lifestyle Choices

Health and Medical Conditions


Chest Pain

This is the most common symptom and can be mild to severe in nature

Chest Discomfort or Pressure

Described quite often as: “An elephant sitting on my chest” sensation.

Pain in other parts of the body

When blood flow has been or is being decreased (think blockages) pain or discomfort can be present in other areas of your body other than your chest, such as:

Jaw (teeth too)

Neck, Back and or Shoulders

Arm(s) usually the left

Stomach – digestion (described as indigestion)

Shortness of Breath (SOB)

Don’t necessarily have to experience this with chest pain at the same time


Cold Sweat


A stroke is like a “heart attack” only in the brain. It happens when blood flow to an area of the brain has been disrupted and the function of that particular area has been interrupted. It can be permanent or temporary.

The Numbers

  • Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.

  • A stroke happens every 40 seconds.

  • Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.

  • Every 4 minutes someone dies from stroke.

  • Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.

  • Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.


Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg especially on one side of the body

Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination

Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Try to note the time of the first onset of symptoms as this will be very important in treatment to hopefully reduce any long-term disabilities.

The American Heart Association recommends learning the warning signs. Remember this acronym:


F – Face drooping

A – Arm Weakness

S – Speech Difficulty

T – Time to call 911

*** Call 911 immediately if you think you or someone you know is experiencing a heart attack or stroke

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