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Q: What are the signs of heart attack in women?

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., but many women miss the signs that they are having a heart attack. That’s often because the symptoms can be different for women than they are for men. Many women mistake a heart attack for something like the flu, acid reflux, or just being stressed.

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain pressure -- like an elephant sitting on your chest. The pressure may last several minutes, or it may go away and then come back. You may also feel pain in one or both arms, or in your neck, jaw, or stomach. It’s also common to feel shortness of breath -- like you just ran a marathon, even if all you did was walk across the room.

But some women don’t feel chest pain or pressure when they have a heart attack. They may feel short of breath, dizzy, or lightheaded. The pain may be in their back, and they may break out in a cold sweat or feel nauseated.

It’s so common for women to put their family first and tough it out when they feel ill, but if you experience any of these symptoms you should take them seriously and call 911 right away. If you’re having a heart attack, getting help quickly could save your life -- and there’s nothing more important to your family than that.

For more heart care education and prevention information, stop by Maui’s 5th annual Heart Failure Community Health Fair on Tuesday, February 11, from 4 to 6:30 pm at Maui Memorial Medical Center. For more information visit mauihealth.org/calendar.

Colin Lee, MD
Interventional Cardiology