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Reviewed 1/20/2023

Women and heart attacks: True or false?

Heart disease is just as much a concern for women as men. But heart attacks can have different symptoms in women. What's your heart attack IQ?

True or false: Breast cancer kills more women than heart disease.

False. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and a big risk factor for having a heart attack. Cancer—including breast cancer—is the second leading cause of death for women.

True or false: Heart attack symptoms can differ between men and women, but chest pain is the most common symptom for both.

True. The pain can feel like a heavy pressure, squeezing or fullness around your heart or in your chest. It might feel like heartburn or indigestion. Usually it lasts for more than a few minutes, but it can sometimes go away and come back. If you have chest pain or discomfort, call 911.

True or false: Women are less likely than men to survive a heart attack.

True. One reason may be that women have heart attacks at older ages than men. Women also are more likely to have less-common symptoms—such as shortness of breath; nausea and vomiting; and pain in the back, neck or jaw. They may wait to seek help or be misdiagnosed.

True or false: One heart attack symptom that women may ignore is feeling unusually tired.

True. One of the most common symptoms women having a heart attack report is feeling weak and having little energy, sort of like having the flu. The fatigue can come on suddenly or occur over several days.

True or false: If a woman thinks she's having a heart attack, the first thing she should do is take an aspirin.

False. The first thing anyone—male of female—should do is call 911. Taking aspirin may be a good follow-up action, but it's best to wait for the emergency operator's instructions.

Heart disease can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or race. But certain factors may up your risk. Talk to a doctor about your risk—and what you can do to prevent a heart attack.

Are you at risk for a heart attack

The signs of a heart attack in women

Sources: American Heart Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Office on Women's Health


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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.