Women’s Health FAQs

Do Women and Men Have Significantly Different Symptoms for Heart Issues?

Publication Date: March 01, 2018

By: Rachel Grimsley, (RN, BSN, MSN) Volunteer Health Officer

Men and women have significantly different experiences with heart issues when it comes to both symptoms and treatment. You’ve probably seen men in TV shows and movies have heart attacks, clutching their chests in pain and swiftly being rushed to the hospital.


I have recently had emergency surgery to have a pacemaker installed due to the discovery that I had a level-3 heart block. I am okay and believe I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time but it made me start to think about women and heart issues. I wonder if you can point me to some sources of information on this topic?


Heart issues are a broad topic. To answer your question, we are focusing on heart attacks and preventing heart disease.

Heart Attack

The most common heart attack symptom for anyone is chest pain [1]. Men may experience crushing chest pain or a heaviness in the chest, but for women, heart attacks or heart issues in general can be much more subtle [1].

Subtle signs of a heart attack include [1]:

  • Pressure in your chest, not pain
  • Pain and discomfort in one or both arms, back, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, either with or without discomfort in the chest
  • Cold sweat, nausea, and lightheadedness
  • Squeezing feeling around the upper back
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Unusual fatigue

Because these symptoms are common for other less severe conditions, they are often discounted. A misconception that women are less likely to have a heart attack puts women at a higher risk of dying from a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the US, and women are more likely to die from a heart attack than men” [1]. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., so it is important to familiarize yourself with these less commonly known symptoms.

Heart Disease

To prevent heart disease, schedule regular checkups with a doctor. Reducing the risk of heart disease is largely connected to maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, controlling your blood pressure or other chronic illnesses, and exercising regularly since physical activity can promote heart health [2].

Heart issues in women can appear less physically stunning than those in men, but they are just as severe. The expectation of heart attacks we have from the media can be detrimental to women who may not realize they are experiencing a heart attack. The best way to combat this is spreading awareness and knowledge about the varying symptoms for women that can so easily go unnoticed. Even if you are unsure of the severity of a symptom, it never hurts to get it checked out!

If you do think you are having a heart attack, don’t wait, call 911, every minute counts.

To learn more about heart health, visit the CDC’s website.

Updated 12/18/2023 By Rachel Grimsley, RN, BSN, MSN, Nurse Writer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only.

The continued availability of external resources is outside of the NWHN’s control. If the link you are looking for is broken, contact us at [email protected] to request more current citation information.



[1] Cleveland Clinic. (2023, April 25). Early signs of a heart attack to take seriously. 7 Early Signs of a Heart Attack (clevelandclinic.org)

[2] CDC. (2023, March 21). Prevent heart disease. Prevent Heart Disease | cdc.gov

Get Involved

New ways to empower health care consumers across the nation.