Symptoms of heart attack & stroke in women


Knowing the symptoms of heart attack and stroke may not only save your life, it may also save the life of another. Symptoms of heart attack in women can be different to men and include pain and pressure in the chest, neck, arm, jaw, shortness of breath, dizziness and a cold sweat. Symptoms of stroke may include blurred vision, numbness, weakness in the arms and impaired speech.

Symptoms of heart attack

Common symptoms of heart attack include feelings of: These may be felt in the: You may also feel:
  • pain
  • pressure
  • tightness
  • heaviness
  • chest
  • neck
  • jaw
  • arm/s
  • back
  • shoulder/s
  • short of breath
  • nauseous (sick)
  • a cold sweat
  • dizzy

A heart attack may be accompanied by chest pain

If you experience these symptoms seek immediate medical help or call 000.

Women don't always feel pain in the centre of the chest when having a heart attack. Rather than the classic chest pain men often feel, women may feel breathless, and have nausea, back pain, tightness or discomfort in the arms and a general feeling of being unwell. In a large study of 1.1 million people who had heart attacks, 42% of women did not feel any chest pain[1]. Women who have been diabetics for a long time may also feel pain differently.

If you experience one or a combination of these symptoms and they progressively get worse for at least 10 minutes it is important to tell someone how you are feeling. If no one is around, call 000 without delay.  Women often wait too long to seek help because they think they are not at risk of heart attack. In fact, they are more likely to have a cup of tea, finish off the ironing or get dinner ready before they will call for help. A woman will call for help for a man she believes to be having a heart attack faster than she will get help for herself. More women die from heart attacks in Australia than men and often the reason is because they don't seek help fast enough.

Symptoms of stroke

When the blood supply to the brain is interrupted this may result in a stroke. The following symptoms may be the signs of a stroke:

  • blurred vision
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • trouble speaking or understanding
  • loss of consciousness

The National Stroke Foundation of Australia has created a clever test to try to determine if someone is having a stroke: this is the FAST test.

Face Check the face – has the mouth dropped?
Arms Can they lift both arms?
Speech Is their speech impaired and can they understand you?
Time If any of these symptoms are present act immediately and call 000

References

  1. Canto et al. Association of age and sex with myocardial infarction (heart attack) symptom presentation and in-hospital mortality JAMA. 2012;307(8):813-822.

Last updated 09 November 2017 — Last reviewed 15 January 2014

** Currently under review **

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at January 2014.

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