“Typical” heart attack symptoms include chest pressure or squeezing or stabbing sensations in the center or left side of the chest, says Myung H. Park, MD, FACC, who is director of the Pulmonary Vascular Diseases Program at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “It’s very typical for people to make a fist when they’re describing their symptoms,” she says. “Some people describe it as feeling like a vise encasing their whole chest area.”
But in women, symptoms are more likely to be atypical: Although most women experience chest pain or discomfort, many don’t. In a 2003 Circulation study of female heart attack patients, scientists found that during an attack, 43% of the 515 women studied had no “acute chest pain, a ‘hallmark symptom in men.’”
The study noted some common female heart attack symptoms:
- Shortness of breath (57.9%)
- Weakness (54.8%)
- Unusual fatigue (42.9%)
Women had other atypical heart attack symptoms, too: nausea, dizziness, lower chest discomfort, upper abdominal pressure or discomfort that feels like indigestion, and upper back pain.
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